La Liga Roundup, Gameweek 25: Basques 2 Leaders 0
Real Madrid beat Elche to go three points clear at the top of La Liga, as Barcelona and Atletico Madrid both succumbed to Basque opposition. Barca were well-beaten by Real Sociedad while Atletico were humbled at Osasuna. The title race is poised to take another twist next weekend when Los Blancos visit the Vicente Calderon.
Gareth Bale hit an outstanding long-range effort for Real Madrid as Los Blancos completed a comfortable 3-0 win over Elche at the Santiago Bernabeu. Asier Illaramendi fired a low shot into the bottom corner for the opening goal, his first for Real Madrid, and the player with the world’s biggest price tag doubled the lead in the second half with a stunning 35-yard strike for his 10th of the season. Substitute Isco hit a third to seal the win with 10 minutes remaining.
Exuberant Osasuna pulled off one of the biggest shocks in La Liga this season by thumping title-chasing Atletico Madrid 3-0 in Pamplona. Atleti coach Diego Simeone rang the changes for the clash with the mid-table side, but his best-laid plans went badly wrong. Javi Gracia’s men struck three times in a frantic first half, with Alvaro Cejudo, Emiliano Armenteros and Roberto Torres all on target. Simeone’s side improved marginally after the break, but were unable to prevent Osasuna recording a deserved and famous victory.
Anoeta has not been a happy hunting ground for Barcelona in recent seasons and the Catalans endured another miserable trip there as Real Sociedad produced a top-drawer brilliant team display to beat the off-colour champions 3-1. The Basque side, who defeated Barca 3-2 in the corresponding fixture last season, went ahead in the 32nd minute when Gorka Elustondo’s header found the net via the shoulder of defender Alex Song. Lionel Messi equalised four minutes later with a clinical finish, but goals from Antoine Griezmann and David Zurutuza early in the second half ensured Barca left San Sebastian empty-handed for the third time in four seasons.
Basement boys Real Betis were plunged even further into trouble with a 2-0 home defeat to Athletic Bilbao, in which they had two players sent off, were denied two penalties and had what they saw as an undeserved spot-kick awarded against them. Iker Muniain opened the scoring in the first half from the spot and Damien Perquis, who had conceded the penalty, was sent off before the interval. Lolo Reyes also received his marching orders after picking up two bookings, and 20-year-old Guillermo Fernandez scored his first goal for Athletic to seal the points and complete a miserable afternoon for Gabriel Calderon’s side.
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Villarreal remained fifth, ahead of Real Sociedad, with a 2-1 victory over Espanyol at Cornella-El Prat, where goals either side of half-time from Moi Gomez and Jeremy Perbet gave the Yellow Submarine a comfortable lead. Jhon Cordoba’s 77th minute strike gave Espanyol a foothold in the game, but they were unable to secure an equaliser and Villarreal ran out deserved winners.
Rayo Vallecano’s survival received another set-back after they were beaten 1-0 at home by Sevilla who finished the game with 10 men for the second week in a row. Former Rayo player Coke headed in the game’s only goal of the game on 58 minutes and the home side were unable to respond, even though Sevilla had Vicente Iborra sent off seven minutes before the end after receiving a second yellow card for time wasting.
Valencia defender Ruben Vezo volleyed a late winner as his team came from behind to beat Granada 2-1 at Mestalla. It looked as if the home side might see their hopes of making a run for a European place next season damaged when Granada took the lead early in the second half through Piti after a mistake from Javi Fuego, but Los Che levelled thanks to substitute Paco Alcacer. Granada looked to be hanging on for a point heading into stoppage time, until 19-year-old Vezo struck, meeting a free-kick from the right at the far post and keeping his composure to nudge the ball home.
Getafe remain in trouble near the foot of the table after a 1-1 draw at Celta Vigo, but did well to pick up a point after playing most of the second half with 10 men. Angel Lafita gave Luis Garcia’s side the lead after 20 minutes but Getafe failed to cling onto their advantage and made things easier for Celta when Lisandro Lopez was shown a second yellow card early in the second half, shortly after which Rafinha equalised for the Galicians.
Andalusian relegation rivals Almeria and Malaga fought out a goalless draw at the Juegos Mediterraneos, with both sides looking to avoid defeat and doing enough to warrant victory. The draw sees Almeria four points above the bottom three, with Malaga a place and a point behind them in 17th. Almeria’s lack of goals must be troubling coach Francisco Rodriguez, his men having scored just three times in their past seven league games. Malaga did have the ball in the net after five minutes, but Sergio Sanchez was correctly ruled offside.
Real Valladolid missed the chance to put pressure on their relegation rivals as they were held to a 1-1 draw at home by Levante. Despite battling back from a half-time deficit when Javi Guerra canceled out Victor Casadesus’ opener, third from bottom Valladolid had to make do with a point.