La Liga, week twenty
La Liga’s week twenty brought some unexpected and interesting results.
In Friday’s action, Getafe drew 2-2 at home with Athletic Bilbao. On Saturday, visiting Sevilla defeated Espanyol 3-0, while hosts Atletico Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw with the consistently in form Girona. Las Palmas won a tough home match 2-1 against a 2-red-card depleted Valencia and Villarreal won at home 2-1 against Levante.
On Sunday, Eibar drew at home 1-1 with Malaga, Betis lost to visiting Barcelona 0-5 in a match marked by a return to some excellent play by the Catalans, albeit accomplished exclusively in the second half and replete with last-ten-minute goal-padding. Real Sociedad lost 1-2 to visiting Celta Vigo, Real Madrid exploded at home, for another freakishly in-form moment, and defeated visiting Deportivo 7-1, and Alaves and Leganes drew 2-2.
Perhaps the most memorable play of the round took place at the Bernabeu, when the Merengue crowd watched Cristiano Ronaldo chest down a cross in the box, and close-in, and one-time the subsequent effort over the crossbar. The crowd reaction was one of effusive support and not derision. A gesture the striker did not miss.
Entering the locker rooms with a 2-1 advantage, the Madrid side seemed eerily unsatisfied. They exploded for five second half goals, two by Ronaldo. The second, off a diving header which resulted in a boot to the face requiring the Portuguese superstar depart to get stitches while the hosts played a man down for ten minutes as they had used up their subs.
Unfortunately for the Madrid fans hoping to take solace from a changed line-up and a positive result, coach Zinedine Zidane chose to start Mayoral over Asensio, watched as Gareth Bale scored a brace and then, unnecessarily brought Karim Benzema in at the 64th (not the 75th as is his wont when subbing the Frenchman out), only to see the sub produce and contribute every bit as little as the player he replaced (Mayoral), while the rest of the team scored another three goals.
At week’s end the table stood at Barcelona on top with 54 points, Atletico Madrid in second, eleven points off the pace at 43, Valencia next at 40 and Real Madrid at 35 with a game in hand. The top scorer was still Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (19) with teammate Luis Suarez (15) in second and Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas (12) in third.