La Liga Week 12: Real Madrid stay top, Barcelona drop to third

Real Madrid remain top of La Liga for another week after beating Mallorca 4-3 in a thrilling game at the Bernabeu. Villarreal continue with their splendid season moving into second place after coming from behind to beat Sevilla 3-2. Barcelona drop to third place after a poor performance at Michael Laudrup’s Getafe who continued their good form to run out 2-0 winners.

Madrid’s game was full of incident, after just five minutes Heinze was fortunate not to be penalized for a hand ball in the area that the referee somehow didn’t see. In the twelfth minute Robinho put Marcelo free on the left with a neat back heel and then stormed into the area to meet his compatriot’s cross with a header that looped into the net. The lead only lasted a couple of minutes, this time Marcelo was the villain as he failed to intercept Ibagaza’s pass to Varela who took the ball past Casillas before shooting home the equalizer.

Madrid had a second decision go there way after 17 minutes when the linesman failed to notice Robinho was just offside when Raul sent the ball through, Robinho made the most of his luck to make it 2-1. Two minutes after that Nunes almost scored another for Mallorca, hitting the post after a corner. Mallorca did however equalize after 37 minutes when Varela got his second of the game with a stunning shot from 25 yards.

In the second half Pepe returned to the team coming on for Cannavaro, but Madrid’s defensive problems continued. Just before the hour a mistake from Diarra gifted Guiza with his seventh goal of the season. Madrid showed all their character and resolve to turn the game around. Raul made it 3-3 after 63 minutes tapping in after a great run from Robinho. Then in the 73rd minute Raul put Van Nistlerooy through and the Dutchman scored the winner with a fine finish.

Barça continued with their poor away form and were deservedly beaten 2-0 by Getafe. The Barça defenders were guilty of ball watching for the first goal as no-one picked up Cata Diaz at the far post and he headed into Manu who beat Valdes after also escaping from his marker. Barça’s midfield failed to connect with the forwards and there were disappointing performances from Messi, Ronaldinho and Messi. Juan Angel Albin completed Barça’s misery with a last minute goal after good work from the excellent Uche. For a full report on the game –

Villarreal move back into second place, one point behind Madrid, after a 3-2 win over Sevilla. Guille Franco put Villarreal in front after half an hour, heading home Senna’s free kick at the far post. Freddie Kanoute equalized for the visitors four minutes later with his sixth goal of the season. Sevilla were reduced to ten men just before half time when Dani Alves was sent off when a deliberate handball earned him his second yellow card in the space of five minutes. Sevilla’s ten men still managed to take the lead just after half time when Luis Fabiano scored the goal which takes him to the top of the goalscorers table with eight goals. However, Guille Franco equalized in the 67th minute once again getting on the end of a Senna free kick. With five minutes left, Sevilla’s Mosquera fouled Matias Fernandez in the area and Fernandez converted the kick himself to earn Villarreal the three points.

David Villa showed he is still a lethal finisher with two goals in Valencia’s 3-0 win over Murcia. Ivan Helguera scored the first getting on the end of Silva’s free kick. Villa’s strikes came after assists from Albelda and the excellent Silva. Ronald Koeman’s first win in charge of the team puts Valencia back in the top four.

Espanyol go fifth thanks to a last minute own goal from Athletic Bilbao’s Aitor Ocio. Gabilondo put Athletic in the lead after just two minutes, but Raul Tamudo’s sixth goal of the season brought things level for the home team. Just when the Basque team thought they had done enough for a point, a mix-up between keeper Gorka Iraizoz and Ocio ended with the defender slicing a lob into his own net to give Espanyol a 2-1 victory.

Atletico Madrid could do no better than draw 0-0 at Almeria, and they were thankful for the point. Almeria deserved to win but their poor finishing cost them dearly. The worst offender was Felipe Melo who had a penalty saved by Atletico’s goalie Leo Franco. However, Atleti nearly stole a win in injury time when Antonio Lopez hit the bar with a free kick. Thiago Motta made his first appearance for Atletico when he came on as sub in the 76th minute.

Second from bottom Betis earned three much needed points beating Zaragoza 2-1. D’Alessandro put the Aragoneses in the lead with a superb free kick on 34 minutes, but substitute Pavone needed only fifteen minutes on the field to turn the game for Betis. After 80 minutes he finished off a fine throughball from Edu, then in the 90th minute Xisco’s cross was headed across goal by Edu and Pavone dived in to chest the ball over the line for the winner.

Recreativo also earned some relief from their relegation battle with a 1-0 home win over Osasuna. Recre had been six games without a goal before the game, but a fine strike from Martins was enough to seal the three points despite Recre losing substitute Gerard who was sent off in the 82nd minute for an ugly challenge on Izquierdo.

Finally, Racing move into seventh place after winning 0-1 at Deportivo with a goal from Tchite, and Valladolid beat bottom placed Levante 1-0 with a super goal from outside the area from Sesma.

Top Six: Real Madrid 28 pts, Villarreal 27, Barça 24, Valencia 24, Espanyol 22, Atletico Madrid 21.

Top Scorers: Luis Fabiano (Sevilla) 8 goals, Messi (Barça) 7, Agüero (At. Madrid) 7, Güiza (Mallorca) 7, Rossi (Villarreal) 7.

Nic writes at the FC Barcelona Blog.

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