La Liga: Barça and Messi find solace in victory over Vallecano
Tom Wellman reflects on a difficult week for Barcelona, and an exciting relegation scrap between Gijon, Villarreal and Zaragoza
Barça end tough week in best possible manner
Barcelona find themselves out of the La Liga title race, Champions League and now without instrumental manager Pep Guardiola for next season but responded brilliantly on Sunday night against Rayo Vallecano. A 7-0 thrashing of the Madrid minnows at least gave their supporters something to cheer about as they look forward to new era under Tito Vilanova, and of course, ready themselves for an emotional farewell to one of their own. Messi’s brace and Pedro’s double helped Barça to put a difficult week behind them and look forward to the Copa del Rey Final against Athletic Bilbao on 25 May.
Racing towards Segunda Division
Racing Santander will be playing second tier football next season after their 3-0 defeat by Real Sociedad condemned them to relegation. The writing has been on the wall for a long time now for Los Racinguistas, who are under Indian ownership similar to Premier League strugglers Blackburn Rovers, and they will finish rock bottom having won just four games so far this campaign. Highly rated Frenchman Antoine Greizmann scored twice and unselfishly assisted Imanol Agirretxe, when he could easily have scored his third, to secure the win for Sociedad but halted Racing’s 10 year stay in the top flight.
Málaga get a reprieve in the battle for third place
Valencia succumbed to Spanish rivals Atletico Madrid on Thursday in the Europa League semi-finals and their week showed no signs of improving with a trip to Málaga. Three points ahead of their south coast rivals before kick-off, Valencia could make Champions League qualification all but safe with a win but failed to do so. Ignacio Camacho’s header gave Málaga the points in a 1-0 win and means that only goal difference separates the two teams. Levante are two points behind in fifth after their victory over Granada and still in the chase for a top four finish. Valencia will be kicking themselves though and hoping the league table remains this way until the end of the season.
Bottom clubs keep battling away despite four-point deficit
Real Zaragoza and Sporting Gijón may trail Villarreal by four points with three games to play but they are still fighting to avoid relegation with two valuable wins at the weekend. Villarreal drew with Osasuna at home, Zaragoza were impressive 2-0 winners over Europa League finalists Bilbao, while Gijón won 3-0 at Espanyol. It will be an interesting week at the foot of the table as Villarreal and Gijón meet on Tuesday night which could all but relegate Sporting and end Zaragoza’s valiant efforts if the Yellow Submarines win. Meanwhile, Zaragoza host Levante on Wednesday but play already-relegated Racing on Saturday.
Atletico salvage a late point in a crazy climax at Betis
Bilbao’s opponents in the Europa League final will be Atletico and Diego Simone’s side were comfortably winning in Betis and looking on course to maintain their Champions League aspirations until a manic final few minutes. Koke gave Atletico a deserved lead on the hour mark before Alejandro Pozuelo grabbed what looked to be the equaliser with five minutes to go. Moments later however, Betis turned the game around as Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois made a rare mistake and spilled Jonathan Pereira’s low shot into the net to make it 2-1. Such a collapse was uncharacteristic of Simeone’s men but they salvaged a late draw in the 93rd minute as Radamel Falcao headed home from a corner.