La Liga wrap: David Villa helps Barcelona return to winning ways
La Liga wrap: Tom Wellman takes a look at the talking points from another hectic weekend of action in Spain
Villa strikes in Sevilla to help Barca return to winning ways
In the absence of manager Tito Vilanova, Barcelona have performed below their best in recent weeks, with it all culminating in a loss to AC Milan in the Champions League. They returned to league action on Saturday,, and despite Sevilla dominating for long periods of the game, Barca managed to squeeze out a victory in tricky conditions. The visitors fell behind to Alberto Botia’s header on 42 minutes but responded through David Villa’s header, proving Barca can adapt their attacking play to testing defences. Lionel Messi received a pass from Cristian Tello eight minutes later to score his 38th league goal of the season and secure the win for Barcelona. Sevilla deserved a point from the game but it proved a below-par Barcelona possess enough quality to win in tough circumstances.
Season defining month ahead for shaky Madrid
Real Madrid’s away form has been dreadful this year but even the most pessimistic Madridista surely foresaw Jose Mourinho’s men dishing out a thumping to bottom club Deportivo La Coruna. Instead, Madrid struggled for long periods and were forced to come from behind to win, holding on with 10 men for the second week running. Riki gave Depor the lead on 36 minutes and almost grabbed another but Marcelo heroically cleared off the line. Cristiano Ronaldo, brought on as a substitute rested ahead of the midweek El Clásico, had a goal chalked off for offside, but Kaká managed to level the game. A draw seemed like being the final result before Gonzalo Higuaín struck with minutes remaining to save Madrid’s blushes. Ángel di María then received two yellow cards inside 15 seconds, emulating Sergio Ramos’s 45 seconds last week, to add pressure but Madrid hung on to the three points. Mourinho sped down the tunnel at full-time, knowing full well the importance of the upcoming two Clásicos and the United Champions League tie on the horizon.
Betis batter Malaga as Benat steals the show
A bad week turned into an awful week for Malaga as they lost their first leg Champions League tie to Porto and suffered a shocking 3-0 thumping away to Andalucian rivals Real Betis. Beñat Etxebarria was the standout player despite the heroics of Willy Caballero in the Malaga goal ensuring the defeat wasn’t more embarrassing. The Spain international assisted all three goals and ran proceedings as Betis maintain their charge towards Europe and severely dent Malaga’s aspirations. By half-time, Betis had romped to a three-goal lead and had effectively ended the game. Jorge Molina opened the scoring with a perfectly timed run and header after just a minute before Mario and Dorlan Pabón added their names to the score sheet. Betis, without top scorer Ruben Castro through injury, should have won 4-0 but the referee missed Molina’s penalty kick bounce over the line but it didn’t take the gloss off of a comfortable win.
Resino reliance on Aspas pays off
Iago Aspas had gone six games without scoring for Celta Vigo as they tumbled down the table and into the bottom three over the past few weeks. The run of results led to the sacking of Paco Herrera, with new manager Alberto Resino taking charge of his first game against in form Granada on Sunday. Celta’s demise has almost been mirrored by Granada’s recent improvement but thanks to Aspas, Resino began his tenure in winning ways. Aspas scored his ninth goal of the season and fed in Mario Bermejo in Celta’s 2-1 win but it wasn’t enough to take them out of the relegation zone. It did however highlight the contribution of Aspas, who has been part of 56 per cent of Celta’s 24 goals this season. Tottenham are often mentioned as a one-man team thanks to the class of Gareth Bale but Celta’s reliance on Aspas is on a different level.
Sociedad silence the San Mames for the final time
The final Basque derby held at the famous San Mames stadium ended in disaster for Athletic Bilbao as they lost to arch rivals Sociedad 3-1. Bilbao, who are to move to their new stadium San Mames Barria next season, took the lead through Ibai Gómez. In the four games Gomez has scored in this season however, Bilbao have lost every one of them and that run continued as Antoine Griezmann, Imanol Agirretxe and Carlos Vela scored three unanswered goals to stun the Bilbao support and lift Sociedad into the Europa League spots. Now only three points above the relegation zone, Bilbao must be aware of the possibility that derbies against Mirandes and Racing could be the ones first seen at the new stadium should they face relegation to the Segunda.