La Liga’s week twelve repeated the same rhythms, successes, and mistakes of the previous few weeks. On Friday Girona drew at home with Real Sociedad keeping the newly promoted side at mid-table.
Saturday, Barcelona, playing away, widened their lead atop the La Liga table when, fortuitously for the Catalans, two fumbles by Leganes keeper Cuellar allowed Luis Suarez to quench his scoring drought with a two-goal performance. Meanwhile, in garbage time, a prone Lionel Messi still managed to poke the ball to Paulinho, inside the Leganes goalkeeper’s box, for a 90th minute toe-poke third goal by the Brazilian defensive midfielder, who has now scored more goals than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
In Madrid, the first Atletico-Real derby at the new Wanda Metropolitano stadium became a soporiferous 0-0 affair. Hosts Atleti, who earned six yellows, were happy with a draw and Real had no clue what to do on offense. The rough affair saw Sergio Ramos have his nose broken by a high kick from Lucas Hernandez but no call was made. Ramos could not continue in the second half.
Keeping his season’s record of poor game-time decisions intact, Real coach, Zinedine Zidane, was unable to come up with any offensive ideas for a second half his team dominated. Once again, a sleepwalking Karim Benzema was kept on the pitch until the 76th minute when Asensio finally arrived on scene to add some pep to the moribund Merengue offense in a repeated too-little-too-late recipe for defeat. Ronaldo’s season-long rhythm of barely receiving any service from his midfield or offensive partners continued as did his inability to score off set plays or the odd one-on-one. Both Madrid sides are now ten points off Barcelona’s pace.
The headline in Spain’s Marca read “Barcelona win the Madrid Derby,” while AS led with “Former international referee Eduardo Iturralde González says that Hernández’s boot to Ramos’s face should have been punished with a spot-kick.”
Getafe took full advantage of a home game against lowly Alaves and earned three points behind a 4-1 win, which allowed them to leapfrog Girona to the tenth place on the table. Sevilla came from behind to beat visiting Celta Vigo 2-1 with Nolito scoring the winner at the 48th minute.
In Sunday’s matches, Valencia defeated hosts Espanyol 2-0 to register their club-record eighth consecutive win. In Las Palmas, visiting Levante secured all three points with a 2-0 win. Hosts Atletico Bilbao drew 1-1 with Villarreal to round out the week’s play.
La Liga’s table at week end saw Barcelona maintain their lead at 34 points while Valencia (30), Real Madrid (24) and Atletico Madrid (24), and Sevilla (22), rounded out the top five. The top three scorers were Barcelona’s Messi (12), Valencia’s Simone Zaza (9), and Villarreal’s Cedric Bakambu (8).
Next week second place Valencia play hosts to leaders Barcelona and fifth place Villarreal host sixth place Sevilla, in the two most important games of the domestic competition’s 13th week.