La Liga wrap: Former Liverpool striker benched as Barca thump Elche
Tom Wellman reflects on a busy weekend of La Liga action
Ronaldo kicks off but Bale secures Madrid victory
Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off for lashing out at Cordoba defender Edimar during Real Madrid’s 2-1 win on Saturday. The Ballon d’Or holder was lucky to still be on the pitch following an earlier swing of the arm at Jose Angel Crespo, but did not escape after kicking and slapping Edimar in full view of the referee. With the match level at 1-1, Real won a penalty and Gareth Bale took the responsibility with Ronaldo in the dressing room, scoring from 12 yards for the first time in La Liga. It was a penalty which had given Cordoba a surprise lead after just three minutes when Sergio Ramos was adjudged to have handled in the area. Nabil Ghilas scored, although Real equalised 20 minutes later when Karim Benzema bundled home from close range, and Bale then grabbed the winner. Ronaldo will have to miss three games because of his suspension, ruling him out of the Madrid derby in February.
Suarez benched but Barca thump Elche again
Luis Suarez watched on as Barcelona took Elche apart for the third time in 2015, with Lionel Messi and Neymar scoring braces. Despite receiving the backing of Luis Enrique prior to the game, Suarez was an unused substitute on the night, having scored just five times in 17 matches for his new club. It mattered little as the Uruguayan was treated to another special display from Messi and Neymar, who have linked up successfully this season, although Elche were reduced to 10 men with the score at 2-0. This was the third and heaviest defeat Elche have suffered against Barca this calendar year, losing 4-0 and 5-0 in the Copa del Rey recently. They did however manage a highly respectable draw with Barcelona in the reverse fixture last year, but that seems a long time ago for the strugglers. Gerard Pique and Pedro were Barca’s other scorers on a vintage night at the Nou Camp.
Griezmann back on track with double against Rayo
He scored five goals in two games either side of the winter break, signalling a big 2015 for Atletico Madrid and Antoine Griezmann, but he endured a slight goal drought before a double against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday. In fairness to the Frenchman, he had faced both Barcelona and Real Madrid twice in his five-game blank stretch, though he returned to scoring form in the 3-1 win which maintains Atleti’s title push. He took advantage of poor defending to open the scoring, then linked up neatly with Mario Mandzukic for Atleti’s second. Roberto Trashorras’ strike proved only a consolation as Manucho diverted a cross into his own net in the second half. Griezmann could have had another but hit the post, whilst Fernando Torres could also have capitalised on the visitor’s patchy defending. Atleti will need all three of their strikers in top form ahead of the Copa del Rey return leg against Barcelona this Wednesday.
Catalan goal king Felipe Caicedo helps Espanyol to fourth straight win
Espanyol’s Felipe Caicedo is currently the most in-form striker in Barcelona after netting his fifth in four matches, helping his side beat Almeria 3-0 on Sunday. In a city where Messi, Neymar and Suarez all play their football, Caicedo – formerly of Manchester City – and Espanyol have hit a real purple patch of late. The club have won four on the bounce, including an impressive 3-1 victory against Sevilla on Thursday in the cup, and also saw off Valencia in the last round. Caicedo grabbed the third against Almeria despite starting from the bench, with Cristian Stuani being preferred from the beginning. Stuani took his chance and scored twice before Caicedo added the finishing touch to another impressive victory. He, and Espanyol, are looking tough to stop.