La Liga wrap: Jose Mourinho’s Real halt Atletico’s title push
La Liga wrap: Cristiano Ronaldo ends his drought as Real Madrid halt Atletico Madrid’s title push. Tom Wellman reports
Real halt Atletico’s title push as Ronaldo ends dry spell
For the first time in years, the Madrid derby carried extra importance to the title ambitions of both teams. Real were eight points behind Atletico before the game began so it was a must-win game in terms of local pride and catching up with Barcelona at the top. Both teams have been dominant at home all season and dreadful away, so there was little surprise as Real came out victorious at the Bernabeu. A trademark Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick, which was his first goal in four matches, and Mesut Özil’s strike reduced the gap from their city rivals to five points but dented Atletico’s title hopes. Diego Simeone now faces a clash with Deportivo La Coruña before duelling with fellow title contenders Barcelona in two weeks’ time.
Barca smash records and Bilbao’s brittle defence
He only took up the job in the summer, but Tito Vilanova has guided Barcelona to the best-ever start to a La Liga season, eclipsing Real Madrid’s 14-game run in the 1991/92 season. Their 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao mean Barça have won 13 and drawn just one of their league games so far this season. Two more Lionel Messi goals – a single shy of Gerd Müller – Gerard Pique, Cesc Fàbregas and Adriano made sure of the routine victory. Ibai Gómez scored a consolation for Bilbao, who desperately need to improve their defence, having conceded a staggering 32 goals in 14 games. It appears Barça have one hand on the trophy already though.
Sociedad loss ends Pellegrino’s miserable spell at Valencia
It was a sacking that had been coming for a long time as the Valencia board finally lost patience with Mauricio Pellegrino following a disastrous 5-2 home defeat by Real Sociedad. Now 12th in the table, Valencia are seven points away from the Champions League spots and currently possess the worst away record in the division – which makes the manner of defeat at home appear worse. Jonas’ red card in the first half allowed Sociedad to torment their opponents but a brace from Roberto Soldado made sure Valencia were still competitive before two late goals from Imanol Agirretxe and Carlos Vela polished off an impressive win, their third in four games. Valencia must now hunt for a new boss who can take them into the top four by May.
Young Arsenal striker shifts Betis into European contention
Joel Campbell, on loan from Arsenal, scored his first La Liga goal with a stunning curling strike to push Real Betis into fourth position. The young Costa Rica striker scored the final goal in a 3-2 which nudges Deportivo further into the relegation zone. With the way things are going at The Emirates, a deal for Campbell’s work permit may be sorted out quicker than usual, as he’s only on loan in Spain due to issues with registration for England. Along with Park Chu-Young, Arsenal currently have two strikers out in Spain and should the 20-year-old earn an extended run in the side then he could earn a place in the Gunners’ starting XI for the 2013/14 season. His winning strike followed a brace from Ruben Castro and capped off an excellent week for Betis, who beat Real Madrid at home last Sunday and now lead fifth placed Malaga by three points.