La Liga wrap: Lionel Messi helps Barça to victory in nine-goal thriller
Tito Vilanova will be concerned with Barcelona's defensive errors in a 5-4 victory at Deportivo La Coruña, writes Tom Wellman
Messi hat-trick spares Barça’s blushes
Deportivo La Coruña had not won in seven attempts before facing Barcelona at the Estadio Riazor but you would never have known it as they caused mayhem for Barcelona’s back four in a crazy game which finished 5-4 in the visitors’ favour. Barça rarely concedes four goals in a game so it will be a worry that a side such as Deportivo managed to score at will, with Lionel Messi netting another hat-trick. Even though the hosts never led during the game they refused to abate as a Pizzi double, a Alejandro Bergantiños García strike and a Jordi Alba own goal made Barça work hard for the points. Victor Valdes was at fault for Bergantinos’ goal and Alba will be hard pushed to score a better own goal than the one he did on Saturday night as the errors will cause Tito Vilanova concern. To make matters worse, Javier Mascherano was harshly sent off during the game to leave Vilanova with fewer defenders to choose from. Meanwhile, Messi rushed straight off to hospital to be with his girlfriend who is currently in labour with his first child.
Late strikes buy time for under-fire Pellegrino
Having led for the entirety of the second half, Athletic Bilbao will be distraught after conceding two late goals to drop all the points away at Valencia. Tino Costa and Nelson Valdez scored twice on the stroke of full-time, changing the 2-1 defeat into a 3-2 win to give Mauricio Pellegrino a much-needed victory and relieve the pressure on his shoulders. Valencia had lost three games already this season and looked set to lose a fourth in just eight games but for the interventions from his players in the dying moments. Both teams could have benefited greatly with a win but it is Valencia who move away from the bottom three, leaving Bilbao cursing their negligence.
Falcao punishes stubborn Sociedad
For long periods of the match, it appeared Real Sociedad would prevent Real Madrid from scoring for the first time this season, but they could not keep Radamel Falcao quiet for the whole 90 minutes. The Colombian struck a perfect free-kick past Enaut Zubikarai just as the clock ticked into stoppage time to make all of Sociedad’s valiant work redundant. The home goalkeeper Eñaut Zubikarai had a tremendous game, making some quality stops – sometimes from his own players, but the precisely placed set-piece ruined his hopes of a clean sheet. Falcao’s goal means he has scored in his last 10 games for club and country, surely making him one of the contenders for the Ballon d’Or next year.
Belated win for unsteady Espanyol
Amid the uncertainty over the general running of the club, Espanyol finally registered their maiden victory in La Liga after eight games without victory. As in many of their previous matches, there was a late goal to change the course of the match, but at long last, the Catalan club benefited from it. Rayo Vallecano initially took the lead through Leo before Joan Verdú’s double switched the score in Espanyol’s favour. Leo scored his second despite both teams being reduced to 10 men after Diego Collotto and Mikel Labaka saw red. In the final minute, substitute Christian Stuani reached Sergio Garcia’s cross to seal a valuable win. General elections will decide the new President of the club very soon but it will take much more than voting and democracy for Espanyol to remain a La Liga side next year.