La Liga Week 26: Robinho saves Real Madrid, Agüero destroys Barcelona

Real Madrid’s 2-3 victory at Recreativo put their advantage over second place Barcelona back to five points this weekend after Barça went down 4-2 at Atletico Madrid. Brazilian star Robinho came on as a substitute to win the game for Madrid with two goals in the last twenty minutes, but the performance of the week came from Atletico’s 19-year-old Argentinian Kun Agüero who tore apart Barça’s defence and made the likes of Puyol and Milito look like amateurs.

Madrid were without the injured Guti, Sneijder and Van Nistlerooy while Robinho and Pepe who were returning after injuries both started on the bench. Recreativo took the game to Madrid and when Caceres stole in at the far post to stab home the opening goal it looked like Madrid would be on the end of their fourth defeat in as many visits to Andalusia this season. However, Raul headed Madrid back into the game after 28 minutes, bravely taking a solid punch in the face from Recre’s keeper Sorrentino for his trouble. Replays suggested that Raul was in an offside position when Drenthe crossed.

Recre were reduced to ten men in the 51st minute when Beto was sent off for pushing Heinze in the face, but things were evened up soon after when Sergio Ramos saw his second yellow of the match for using his elbow too much as he jumped for a header. It became ten men against nine in the 68th minute when Alvarez got a straight red for a horrific lunge at Robben which leaves the Dutchman doubtful for Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Roma.

With the numerical advantage, Schuster decided it was time to throw on Robinho in place of Cannavaro and the move was rewarded with a goal almost immediately, Robinho firing past Sorrentino from just outside the area. Then on 90 minutes Robinho beat the offside trap and produced an exquisite chip over the advancing keeper to seal the three points for Madrid. Recre got a late goal with a fine free kick from Martins, but it was little consolation.

Frank Rijkaard confounded Barça’s fans by leaving out Toure Yaya and Leo Messi for the difficult trip to Atletico Madrid. It was claimed both players had physical problems but Rijkaard had no problem putting Messi on as a sub when Barça were losing. Rijkaard’s tactics were also questionable as he chose to play Samuel Eto’o on the right wing with Ronaldinho in the middle. It didn’t seem to matter after 30 minutes as Ronaldinho put Barça in front with a spectacular overhead kick.

However, Atletico came alive near the end of the half thanks to the splendid Agüero. He scored the equalizer with a shot that took a big deflection off Carles Puyol, and then he set up Maxi Rodriguez to score from a tight angle. In the second half Atletico went further ahead when Puyol pulled down Agüero in the area and Forlan sent Valdes the wrong way from the penalty. Then Agüero scored the goal of the game leaving Puyol and Milito in his wake before curling a perfect shot past Valdes. Eto’o pulled one back for Barça who will be kicking themselves for a poor all-round performance. Click here for a full report on Atletico-Barça.

Sevilla’s good run came to an end with a 2-1 defeat at Deportivo. Sevilla started well and took the lead in the 25th minute when Maresca robbed the ball in midfield before threading the ball to Freddie Kanoute who was in an offside position, the linesman’s flag, however, stayed down and Kanoute coolly slotted the ball past Aouate. Ten minutes later Wilhelmsson equalized from the penalty spot after Maresca had brought down Bodipo. Depor’s winner came after 65 minutes when a strategic free kick ended with Lafita scoring at the near post. The victory moves Depor out of the bottom three.

Espanyol moved above Sevilla into fifth place with a 2-0 win at home to Valencia. Luis Garcia got them off to a good start getting in front of the hesitant Hildebrand to score. Valencia did very little to get back into the game and Espanyol got their second early in the second half when Silva brought down Valdo in the area after an excellent counter attack, Luis Garcia fired home the penalty. Valencia’s Maduro was sent off near the end for his second yellow card and Espanyol held on comfortably for their first win after a run of three consecutive defeats.

Villarreal remain in third place after their 0-0 home draw with Osasuna, but this is their third consecutive draw at home and they only remain so high in the table thanks to their rivals’ failures. Both teams had chances but Diego Lopez for Villarreal and Ricardo for Osasuna made good saves to keep the game goalless. This was Osasuna’s first away point for three months.

Racing Santander move above Sevilla and back into the top six with a 0-1 victory at Valladolid. Aldo Pedro Duscher scored the only goal of the game in the 85th minute converting a cross from Oscar Serrano.

Betis move up to 11th place after their 4-0 win against whipping boys Murcia, but are still only three points above the relegation zone. Arzo’s own goal set them on their way after 14 minutes, then goals from Edu, Pavone and Sobis from the penalty spot gave them the three points.

Mallorca staged a fine comeback to draw 3-3 at Getafe. Cotelo and Albin scored two early goals for the home team before Güiza pulled one back. Mallorca then had Scaloni sent off after 35 minutes for his second bookable offence. In the second half Getafe went 3-1 up when Ramis scored in his own goal, but the ten men fought back with two goals in the last fifteen minutes through Arango and Ramis to earn a creditable point.

Bottom of the table Levante continue to show signs that they could make a miraculous escape, this week beating Zaragoza 2-1. Geijo and Riga put the home team two goals up before Oscar got one back for the visitors. Zaragoza have now lost four on the trot and find themselves precariously positioned just one place above the relegation zone.

Finally, Almeria and Athletic Bilbao shared the points in a 1-1 draw. Alvaro Negredo put Almeria ahead from the penalty spot after Ortiz was fouled by Yeste, but Fernando Llorente equalized for Athletic with a header in the 72nd minute.

Top Six: Real Madrid 59 points, Barcelona 54, Villarreal 47, Atletico Madrid 44, Espanyol 42, Racing Santander 41.

Top Scorers: Luis Fabiano (Sevilla) 19, Diego Milito (Zaragoza) 14, Joseba Llorente (Valladolid) 12, Van Nistlerooy (Real Madrid) 12, Raul (Real Madrid) 12.

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