The La Liga title race will go right down to the wire after both Real Madrid and Barcelona picked up all three points on Saturday. The Blaugranas are just a point ahead of Los Blancos who have both incidentally smashed the leagues points tally of 92 which was set in 1997 by Fabio Capello’s Madrid.
Real Madrid eventually cruised to a 5-1 demolition of Athletic Bilbao, who themselves had a lot to play for with a Europa League spot in their sights. The Whites had to endure a nervy evening especially when Bilbao drew level following Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener. The whole game’s dimension changed when Fernando Amorebieta was harshly dismissed by referee Muniz Fernandez, who deemed the centre half of intentionally handling the ball in the penalty area resulting in Ronaldo dispatching a spot kick to give the hosts the lead.
Just before the break Franciso Yeste stunned the Bernabeu crowd with a wonderful solo effort as the rain poured down in the capital, and look as if to have poured cold water on Florentino Perez’s title dream. However Real’s coach Manuel Pellegrini gave his side a more attacking emphasis in the second half by bringing last summer’s big money recruits Kaka and Karim Benzema off the bench. Gonzalo Higuain headed the contenders back in front with just under twenty minutes left to play as Bilbao’s resolve began to collapse.
Another three goals from Sergio Ramos, Benzema and Marcelo rounded off the scoring which also saw club legend Guti wave goodbye to his beloved fans as he ends a 26 year association with the club. A true professional who will be sorely missed at the Bernabeu as he seeks new pastures.
Meanwhile Barcelona produced 70 minutes of pure brilliance against The Rojiblancos of Sevilla but almost threw it all away in the final quarter. The reigning La Liga champions who are looking to regain their crown produced some truly wonderful football for the majority of the game as Lionel Messi was orchestrating the play. Barca terrorised Sevilla for large parts of the game, especially down the right hand side where former Sevilla favorite Dani Alves was largely involved linking up with Messi and Pedro in particular.
It only took four minutes for Argentina’s Messi to open the scoring with an instinctive finish.The FIFA World Player of the Year was then involved in Barca’s second after linking up with Spanish maestro Xavi who lofted a delightful ball through the Sevilla defence finding young Bojan Krkic who tucked the ball home to put Barca in cruise control.
Pedro hammered in a third just just after Abdoulay Konko was dismissed for the Sevillistas when he picked up his second booking. The home support of the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuánwere was then treated to a double goal salvo by their side as Barca began to leave space at the back. Fredi Kanoute pulled one back in the 70th minute before a quickly taken free kick saw Luis Fabiano slot the ball past Victor Valdes two minutes later to provide a nervy jangling last quarter for Barca who eventually saw the game out.
This is a massive victory for Barcelona who celebrated after the game as if they had already won the title. Club president Joan Laporta looked on with his approval from the stands as the players embraced one another with unity and spirit.
Pep Guardiola’s side will now entertain Valladolid at the Camp Nou next Sunday with Madrid travelling to Malaga. The holders are in the driving seat but a victory is by no means a foregone conclusion as their opponents are fighting for their lives at the opposite end of the table.
The same goes for Real as opponents Malaga are also battling against the drop. La Liga has reached a scintillating climax as it draws to a close. Next Sunday see’s so much on the line at both ends of the table as both Real and Barca hope to flourish as Spain’s cream of the crop.