La Liga wrap: Gareth Bale fills Cristiano Ronaldo void for Madrid
La Liga wrap: Gareth Bale fills Cristiano Ronaldo's void and fires Real Madrid to a 4-0 win against Real Sociedad
Bale goal helps Real win without Ronaldo
With Cristiano Ronaldo absent with a knee injury, the goal-scoring responsibility fell onto the shoulders of Gareth Bale, who duly obliged. Bale scored Madrid’s second goal in the 4-0 win at Sociedad on Saturday to keep them in the title hunt and three points behind Atletico. Asier Illarramendi scored his second La Liga goal for Los Blancos against the team he moved from in the summer to set Real on their way to the win. Bale capitalised on a defensive error in the second half after Karim Benzema and Sergio Ramos had hit the woodwork earlier on, and the Madrid oufit made the result comfortable late on. Pepe headed in a third before Alvaro Morata grabbed his customary goal from the bench for the second week running. A massive win for Real, who, along with Atletico and Rayo Vallecano, are the only teams to have beaten Sociedad at home this season.
Edgy win for Barca after stressful week
Barcelona’s image as the superior club in world football has taken a battering in recent weeks. The Catalans pride themselves with the motto ‘more than just a club’, but tax scandals and a transfer ban this week made the atmosphere at the Nou Camp tense for the visit of Betis. Two Lionel Messi goals were enough to help Barca to a 3-1 win but it was far from comfortable. Messi’s first came from the penalty spot and his second a rebound from another spot-kick after his effort was saved. Ruben Castro had made the situation difficult by scoring to make it 2-1 just after Jordi’s own goal, but Messi made sure of another vital three points. With Atletico coming up in the week at the Vicente Calderon, a performance of that ilk will likely result in elimination from the famous competition.
Injuries mount but Atleti keep winning
Like Real Madrid, Atletico had their star player missing with injury this weekend. Diego Costa was replaced at the Nou Camp in midweek with a thigh injury, and was absent again for Atleti’s 1-0 victory against Villarreal. Not only that but Arda Turan was also missing due to a groin injury, and could miss the return leg of the Champions League this week, whilst Gabi was suspended. Despite the depleted squad, Atletico still made sure they remained top of La Liga for another week thanks to Raul Garcia’s header from a Koke corner. As the squad begins to pick up injuries, the lack of depth may become a problem for the remaining six league games.
Rayo run taking them to safety
What a difference a month makes for Rayo Vallecano! At the beginning of March, Rayo were in 19th position and six points from safety, but their 3-0 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday moved them six clear of the drop zone and up to 12th. The club obviously had faith in manager Paco Jemez who has guided them from relegation certainties to five wins in their last seven games. It has been an incredible revival, marred only by the hammering away to Real Madrid, in which the minnows have recorded wins over Valencia and Sociedad, as well as relegation rivals Almeria, Osasuna and Celta Vigo. The weekend win was solid against a poor Celta side, and despite a horrific headbutt by former West Ham defender Razvan Rat, was a perfect performance from Rayo. Now on 36 points, a miraculous escape is looking likely.