It’s as you were in La Liga with all of the top three picking up wins to keep this title race alive. Atletico Madrid scraped past Malaga with a 1-0 win while cross city rivals Real Madrid came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 away to Rayo Vallecano. Those games came before Barcelona’s encounter with Sporting Gijon which saw the Catalans cruise to a 6-0 victory.
Rayo Vallecano 2-3 Real Madrid
16th place Rayo Vallecano were living in a fantasy yesterday with a two goal lead over Real Madrid with just 17 minutes played. Poor defending from Real allowed Bebe to slip the ball across the face of goal to the waiting Adrian Embarba who fired Rayo ahead with seven minutes played. Madrid center-back Raphael Varane will be having nightmares over his horrific header which fell to Rayo forward Miku who riffled the ball home with gusto to give Rayo a two goal lead.
However, Real had plenty of time to get back into the game and ten minutes from half-time Gareth Bale rose to head home a corner starting Los Blancos comeback. The sides were level seven minutes after the restart when right-back Danilo’s cross was headed home by Lucas Vázquez.Gareth Bale displayed his individual talent to seal a Madrid win. He used his blistering pace to effect beating the Rayo center-backs with ease before slotting the ball home with nine minutes left. You can watch the highlights of the game here.
Atletico Madrid 1-0 Malaga
Atletico Madrid fought tooth and nail to defeat Malaga yesterday with substitute Correa scoring the winner. The first half was a tense with both sides producing chances. Just before half-time a bizarre incident occurred. A Malaga counter attack flew past the Atletico bench and with his side stretched at the back coach Diego Simeone threw a second ball onto the pitch. This incident only adds to Atletico’s ‘win at all costs’ mentality and saw Simeone sent to the stands and he is now likely to pick up a three match touchline ban as a result despite blaming a ball boy. Into the second half Atletico continued to search for a winner and substitute Ángel Correa found a way through in the 62 minute when his strike just outside the box beat Ochoa in the Malaga goal. Atletico held on despite Malaga’s resurgence and stay level at the top of La Liga. You can see Correa’s goal and the Simeone incident here.
FC Barcelona 6-0 Sporting Gijon
Fresh off a 8-0 victory midweek against Deportivo, FC Barcelona welcomed relegation threatened Sporting Gijon to the Camp Nou. The onus was on the hosts to secure a win in order to keep pace with Atletico. Gijon very nearly took the lead with 11 minutes played when a fast counter attack stretched the Barca defence but Álex Menéndez’s shot was saved well by Claudio Bravo. Just two minutes later Lionel Messi was celebrating the opening for the Catalans. Andres Iniesta had flicked the ball towards Luis Suárez who backed out of a challenge against Sporting keeper Iván Cuéllar who palmed the ball directly to Messi. The Argentinean rose to head home despite Cuéllar’s appeals that he was fouled. Barcelona seemed to be complacent after the opener and they very nearly payed the price on the stroke of half-time. Yet another Gijon counter attack saw the ball cleared off the goal line by Javier Mascherano but his clearance fell to Alen Halilovic who saw his effort stopped on the line by Mascherano before it glanced off the chest of Gerard Pique.
Barcelona replaced Sergi Roberto at half-time and the introduction of Dani Alves raised the sides performance. A textbook Barcelona attack saw Messi play through Andres Iniesta who squared the ball to the awaiting Luis Suárez with 63 minutes played. Barcelona were awarded a penalty when Dani Alves’ cross was adjudged to have been hand-balled. Suárez thundered the ball home into the top right hand corner. Neymar won a penalty when he was pushed over in the box with 76 minutes played. Suárez once again riffled the ball home to make it 4-0. Barcelona won yet another penalty when Neymar was pushed when jumping to meet a cross. A soft penalty which the Brazilian took just about beating Cuéllar. Messi combined well with Suárez who saw his curling effort find the net with 87 minutes played. Highlights of the match can be viewed here.
Barcelona and Ateltico remain level at the top of La Liga with 82 points each while Real sit in third on 81 points. Both Madrid clubs are in action this week in the Champions League which could be beneficial for Barcelona who will hope the ‘Champions League hangover’ strikes Atletico next weekend. Atletico Madrid host Rayo Vallecano next Saturday while Real travel to Real Sociedad. FC Barcelona face a tricky trip away to Real Betis.
The La Liga title race has a few twists yet as the finish line looms larger.