La Liga round-up: Karim Benzema answers his critics
France striker grabs winner as Real Madrid scrape 1-0 win to keep up with leaders Barcelona
Karim Benzema answered his critics by scoring the winning goal at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night to prevent Real Madrid from suffering another slip-up against Real Mallorca.
Michael Laudrup’s team were well organized, bold in attack and generally impressive, but the Madrilenos were in no mood to drop more points and their patience and superior quality paid off when Benzema struck in the second half to secure a 1-0 win. It was a narrow but well-deserved win for Jose Mourinho’s men but it does not completely detract from the concurrent problems at the club, such as the lack of striking depth, the uncertainty surrounding Mourinho’s future and perceived factions within the club’s hierarchy.
Barcelona didn’t let their let their minor midweek cup blip affect their league form on Saturday. Pep Guardiola’s men made light work of beating Racing Santander 3-0 at the Camp Nou, repeating the same result they achieved at the Sardinero on the opening day of the season. Pedro Rodriguez, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta scored the goals and, even though Racing created their share of chances, a three goal margin was a fair reflection of proceedings.
A goal from Aritz Aduriz in the last minute of regulation time produced a 4-3 win for Valencia over an improved Malaga side at Mestalla. Manuel Pellegrini’s side were superior in the first half and twice took the lead through Jose Rondon but first Juanma Mata and then Roberto Soldado cancelled out their lead. Fifteen minutes into the first half Martin Demichelis was sent off and just over fifteen minutes into the second half Helder Rosario followed, so Malaga played the last half an hour with nine men and it proved to much of them. Ever Banega put Unai Emery’s team ahead and, although Julio Baptista scored his first Malaga goal to point the match in the direction of a draw, Aduriz’s last gasp winner eventually settled the result in Valencia’s favour.
Levante fell to their fifth consecutive league defeat at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Saturday night as Luis Fabiano ran riot, scoring a hat-trick to lead his team to a 4-1 triumph in front of the home fans. Julien Escude scored the other Sevilla goal and Xisco Munoz grabbed Levante’s solitary mark in response but Luis Garcia Plaza, who was watching on from the stands due to a touchline ban, will be hard pushed to extract any positives from his side’s performance.
Sporting de Gijon put together back to back victories for the first time this season, complementing last weekend’s triumph over Hercules with a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid at the Molinon on Sunday. After a total non-event of a first half, Sporting settled the tie in the second when David Barral exploited a dreadful defensive error by Atletico to score the only goal of the game.
Getafe usually pride themselves on their home performances but they were beaten for the fourth consecutive match at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez this weekend by Espanyol. Mauricio Pochettino’s men came from a goal behind to win 1-3 to keep themselves within three points of the top four. It was looking good for Michel’s men at the break with a slim advantage provided by Miku’s first half goal but Luis Garcia, Jose Callejon and Sergio Garcia struck in the second period to disappoint the few home fans who turned out for the game.
Almeria‘s exceptional Copa del Rey form was finally in evidence in La Liga on matchday twenty as they beat Osasuna 3-2 at the Juegos Mediterraneos to drag themselves off the bottom of the table. Carlos Garcia opened the account for the Andalusians and Leandro Ulloa scored twice either side of a Carlos Aranda response for Osasuna. Jose Luis Oltra’s side’s first home league win of the season was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests as the Pamplonan’s second goal, finished by Serbian giant Dejan Lekic, arrived in the very last minute of regulation time.
Said Boutahar goal-bound free-kick, which beat Daniel Aranzubia to give Real Zaragoza a 1-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna at the Romareda, was a rare highlight in a very dull match between two underperforming clubs. 16th placed Zaragoza are now just two points behind Depor in 13th as the pool of potential relegation candidates continues to grow.
Villarreal had to come from a goal behind to beat Real Sociedad at the weekend. Martin Lasarte’s team’s intention was to defend to the hilt but they snatched an early goal through Mikel Aranburu in the first half which gave them hope of victory. They were not counting on the attacking genius of Giuseppe Rossi, though, and the Americo-Italian popped up with a goal either side of the break to settle the tie 2-1 in Villarreal’s favour. Juan Carlos Garrido’s team remain unbeaten at the Madrigal this season.
Athletic Bilbao were vastly superior to Hercules at San Mames on Monday night, where they ran out 3-0 victors in a strictly one-sided affair. Hercules’ away day blues continue after another dreadful display far from the home comforts of Alicante. Javi Martinez was a powerhouse in central midfield and he put the Basques in front early on before Fernando Llorente and Iker Muniain chipped in with goals in the second half.