Spain’s domestic championship, La Liga, had an eventful week fifteen.
On Friday, Alaves defeated visiting Las Palmas 2-0 in a battle of relegation zone opponents who keep playing musical chairs. On Saturday, Getafe and Eibar drew 0-0, keeping both teams at mid-table. But then the fireworks began.
Exploding out of the blocks and turning what should have been a competitive match into a runaway, Real Madrid demolished Sevilla 5-0 at home with all the scoring coming in the first half. Just as important for coach Zinedine Zidane the Merengues were able to win at home while keeping a clean sheet, for once. More ominously for the league, Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace after having showcased his five Ballon d’Ors at a pregame ceremony celebrating his current trophy.
Deportivo took advantage of their home field and defeated Leganes 1-0, and Valencia were lucky to win at home 2-1 to Celta Vigo, to round out the day’s play.
On Sunday, all home teams lost. Real Sociedad lost 0-2 to Malaga, Real Betis lost 0-1 to Atletico Madrid, Levante lost 1-2 to Athletic Bilbao, and in the steal of the week, once again, Barcelona needed officiating largesse to defeat Villarreal 2-0 at Estadio de la Ceramica. The game was played with Barca missing Andres Iniesta and Samuel Umtiti and Villarreal missing 5 starters and then losing a 6th through injury during the game.
In the match, a game that had been very competitive and could have gone either way until the 60th minute, we saw Dani Raba commit a tough foul on, ironically, Sergio Busquets. The Catalan writhed in pain and rolled about as if mortally wounded only to manage another 26 minutes of playing time after Raba’s direct and questionable red card changed the balance of the match.
Of course, by the 24th minute of this match Barca had already committed 14 uncalled strategic fouls, many by Busquets. In truth few Barca fouls were as tough as Raba’s, but certainly any three of Sergio’s should have been yellows. Yet, once again, Barcelona managed to be called for less fouls than their opponents 13 to Villarreal’s 18, but more importantly the home team obtained a red and two yellows to Barca’s one yellow, Busquets’, at the 45th. The fact that he committed at least two more yellow-card worthy fouls, one before and one after Rada’s, managed to go uncalled by the ref.
The one-sided officiating detracted from what was a very pretty opening goal by Luis Suarez (72nd minute) off of great teamwork. Lionel Messi’s second (83rd minute) was a giveaway by the Villarreal defense who was caught napping because Suarez had thrown a ball onto the pitch when he had picked the ball up out of bounds attempting to fool the ref into conceding a corner. When he was told he was not getting the call the Cule striker walked onto the field, and in a fit of pique dropped the ball onto the pitch. Messi, who received the errant defensive pass, walked into the box with his gift and smashed home the second goal…with the illegal second ball still on the pitch.
But what are rules when the result favors Barcelona, right?
At weekend’s close the table stood at Barcelona in first place with 39 points, Valencia second with 34, followed by Atletico Madrid at 33, Real Madrid at 31, Sevilla at 28 and Villarreal at 21. The top scorer remained Barcelona’s Messi, now at 14, followed by Valencia’s Simone Zaza at 10 and then Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas and Villarreal’s Cedric Bakambu at nine goals apiece.
Monday, December 11, 2017–update
Girona continued its historic ascent into first division with a 1-0 win away to Espanyol, in a new Catalan Derby. David Timor scored in the 45+ minute to put the visitors ahead just before the halftime whistle. The newly promoted side is now in ninth place on the La Liga table.