Anyone who thought La Liga was over has been proved wrong again. Every week it gets more and more crazy as Real Madrid and Barcelona try to outdo each other to see who can waste most chances. This week Barça did not play well but 17-year-old Bojan Krkic scored twice as they beat Valladolid 4-1, while Madrid played well going forward but paid the price for defensive mistakes, losing 2-3 at home to Ronald Koeman’s Valencia.
Real Madrid who will be without the injured Ruud Van Nistlerooy for another month, started with Raul on his own up front supported by Sneijder, Baptista and Robinho. Madrid created the better early chances but Valencia took the lead when Sneijder lost the ball to Silva who sent a short vertical pass through to David Villa who beat Casillas for the opening goal after 33 minutes. Madrid took just two minutes to draw level when Raul got behind Helguera to head home Marcelo’s cross from the left.
Ten minutes into the second half Guti got away from two opponents before sending Raul through to beat Hildebrand with a low shot that went in off the post. Guti and Sergio Ramos had chances to extend Madrid’s lead but then after 65 minutes Cannavaro gave away a pointless penalty on Silva, and Villa sent Casillas the wrong way to equalize. In the last fifteen minutes it seemed as if Valencia had run out of steam as Madrid went looking for the winner. Sneijder and Higuain, twice, had great chances to win it for Madrid, but then in the 88th minute Arizmendi got away from Marcelo on the right before skipping past Cannavaro’s sliding challenge and fooling Casillas at his near post when the Madrid goalkeeper was expecting a cross. There was still time for Raul to force a fine save from Hildebrand but Valencia held on to end a fantastic week after they had beaten Barça on Thursday to reach the Copa del Rey final where they will meet Getafe on April 16.
Barça moved to within four points of the leaders with a comfortable win over strugglers Valladolid. Samuel Eto’o scored his eleventh of the season with a side-foot volley from Bojan’s cross in the 23rd minute, but Valladolid equalized when the referee mistakenly judged Thuram to have fouled Llorente and Sesma sent Valdés the wrong way from the penalty. Barça then performed nervously until the 47th minute when Iniesta rounded the keeper to restore Barça’s lead. Bojan made the most of the linesman’s failure to see that Puyol was offside in the third goal, and then when Valladolid were attacking most Eto’o broke down the right before setting up Bojan with a simple far-post tap-in. Bojan now has seven goals to his name and is well on the way to becoming the next major idol at Camp Nou. Click here for a full report on Barcelona-Valladolid.
If the top two continue to stutter there could still be a chance for third place Villarreal who are now only six points behind Madrid. They were slow to get into their game against bottom team Levante who hit the post and had a goal disallowed in the first fifteen minutes. However, Villarreal woke up and Matias Fernandez gave them the lead just before the half hour, but Levante equalized after 64 minutes through Miguel Angel, and Villarreal had to wait until seven minutes from time for substitute Guille Franco to make it 1-2 at the end.
Fourth place Atletico Madrid took a giant step towards next season’s Champions League by winning 1-2 at Sevilla. Kun Agüero and Simao gave Sevilla’s full backs plenty of problems, and after 18 minutes they combined to set up Maxi Rodriguez to score with a fine strike. Capel equalized for Sevilla early in the second half, but Agüero restored Atletico’s lead after 57 minutes. Sevilla’s Maresca was sent off soon after which basically ended any chance Sevilla had to get back in the match. Sevilla drop to sixth in the table, five points behind Atletico.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend came at Murcia where the home team hammered Espanyol 4-0. Before the game Murcia had taken just one point from the last eleven games and were looking to be relegation certainties. New coach Javier Clemente put in 17-year-old Dani Aquino who performed excellently on the left wing, and the tactic of sending long balls up to Ivan Alonso caused the Espanyol defence plenty of problems. After 35 minutes Alonso won a penalty hich he converted himself and five minutes later he headed in a second. Second half goals from Abel and Richi completed Espanyol’s misery and offered a glimmer of hope to Murcia’s fight against the drop.
Racing Santander move above Sevilla and Espanyol into fifth position after seeing off a stubborn Recreativo with two late goals. Recreativo gave as good as they got until the sending off of Caceres after 64 minutes. With just under ten minutes left, a scramble in the area ended when the ball came out to Orteman who fired the ball home from the edge of the area. In the last minute Recreativo goalkeeper Sorrentino went forward for a corner and was caught out as Racing broke away to score through Smolarek.
Ten man Zaragoza could not hold on to the lead and ended up with a 1-1 draw at home to Almeria. Gabi was sent off after 61 minutes when the score was still 0-0, but Zaragoza took the lead soon after when Oliveira headed home Matuzalem’s corner. Zaragoza held on until the 89th minute when another corner, this time from Almeria’s Mané was headed in by Negredo.
In the other games this weekend Athletic Bilbao beat Getafe 1-0 with a goal from Joseba Etxeberria, Mallorca got a 1-0 victory over Deportivo thanks to a direct free kick goal from Arango, and Betis eased their problems with a 0-1 win at Osasuna with a goal from Mark Gonzalez.
Top Six: Real Madrid 62 points, Barcelona 58, Villarreal 56, Atletico Madrid 50, Racing Santander 47, Sevilla 45.
Bottom Six: Deportivo 34, Zaragoza 33, Valladolid 32, Recreativo 32, Murcia 26, Levante 19.
Top Scorers: Luis Fabiano 22, Raul 15, Diego Milito 15, Güiza 15, Forlan 13.