La Liga week 4: Barçelona close the gap as Real Madrid and Sevilla stumble

Football Club Barcelona took all three points in Saturday night’s big game, beating a disappointing Sevilla 2-1 at Camp Nou. Star of the game and scorer of both Barça goals Leo Messi continues his rise to what ultimately should see him become the best player in the world (although having seen Cesc Fabregas’ display against Derby, he may have some competition).

Messi celebrated his goals by giving the Ronaldinho salute, a dedication to the Brazilian who did not play. The official reason for Ronnie’s absence was a calf injury, though many believe he chose not to play due to rumours suggesting he was out clubbing 48 hours before last week’s game against Osasuna. Ronaldinho has denied the story.

Thierry Henry was unlucky not to score his first league goal for Barça when he hit the post in the second half. That’s three times in four games that Henry has been denied by the woodwork, surely his luck will change soon. Here’s the full report for the Barca-Sevilla game.

Barça closed the gap with Real Madrid to two points as Madrid could only draw 1-1 away to Valladolid. Bernd Schuster left out top scorer Wesley Sneijder to give a place to Drenthe on the left side of midfield. Injuries to Pepe and Metzelder meant Sergio Ramos and Cannavaro played as the central defensive pair and Michel Salgado came in at right back.

It was not a good performance from Madrid, and Valladolid may feel aggrieved for not getting a penalty in the first half for a handball from Salgado. It could have made a big difference especially as Salgado had already been booked and could have seen a second yellow card.

Raul forced a good save from Butelle near the end of the first half, and a minute later it was Casillas at the other end showing his goalkeeping skills to keep out a shot from Sisi. After the break Valladolid again went close but nobody could get on the end of Borja’s cross.

Arjen Robben came on for Drenthe after an hour, but it was Valladolid who eventually took the lead through a fantastic shot from nearly 30 metres from Pedro Lopez. With seven minutes left Schuster put on striker Javier Saviola for defender Salgado, and the gamble paid off just a couple of minutes later when Van Nistlerooy set up the Argentinian for a simple finish. Llorente almost won it for Valladolid in injury time but inexplicably he failed to convert a sitter.

Villarreal left it late at home to Murcia. Two goals in the last five minutes from substitute Giuseppe Rossi gave them a 2-0 win which puts them into second place in the table a point behind Real Madrid.

Valencia moved into third place with a fairly easy 1-2 away victory over Betis. Miguel put the visitors ahead after 69 minutes, making the most of a defensive error. And then Joaquin made it 0-2 by scoring against his old club. Sobis pulled a late goal back for Betis.

Atletico Madrid recorded their first win of the season with a 4-0 victory over Racing. The win was made easier by the sending off of Racing substitute Jordi when the score was still 1-0. He was only on the pitch for four minutes in which time he managed to receive two yellow cards. Atleti’s goals came from Raul Garcia, Aguero, Forlan and Simao.

There were also first wins for Recreativo, Zaragoza and Athletic Bilbao. Recre came from a goal behind at home to Espanyol, two goals in five minutes from Guerrero made Riera’s early goal for Espanyol count for nothing. Zaragoza beat Osasuna 2-1, Matuzalem scored the first goal for Zaragoza dribbling past two defenders before firing home, Juanfran volleyed in an equalizer before Diego Milito scored the winner from the penalty spot after he had been fouled by D’Alessandro. Two goals from Aduriz gave Athletic a 1-2 away win against Levante. Rigano pulled one back for Levante but it wasn’t enough and they now find themselves at the bottom of the league.

Almeria drew 1-1 at home to Mallorca. Mané opened the scoring for Almeria and thirteen minutes from the end Güiza converted a cross from Borja to give Mallorca a point, when perhaps they deserved to take all three.

Finally there was a disappointing 0-0 draw between Michael Laudrup’s Getafe, who are still without a win, and Deportivo. Depor’s Joan Verdu had the best effort of the game in the 40th minute but Getafe keeper Abbondanzieri produced a fine save.

Nig writes on the FC Barcelona Blog.

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