Bad Days for Big Two and Desperate Deportivo

RESULTS Sat 30 Apr Real Madrid 2-3 Real Zaragoza, Real Sociedad 2-1 Barcelona, Deportivo La Coruna 0-1 Atlético Madrid Sun 1 May Almería 0-1 Sevilla, Levante 0-0 Sporting Gijón, Málaga 3-1 Hércules, Racing Santander 2-0 Mallorca, Villarreal 2-1 Getafe, Osasuna 1-0 Valencia Mon 2 May Espanyol 2-1 Athletic Bilbao

GOOD DAY

VillarrealA huge sigh of relief from Villarreal after Thursday’s 5-1 humping by Porto. Losing 1-0 at half time to Getafe - an embarrassing thing to happen to a lady these days - it looked like the club’s continuing crumble in la Liga was going to worsen.

But then they got their act together in the second half, Cani and Giuseppe Rossi coming up with a couple of goals to move Villarreal to within three points of Valencia – and, if the Mestalla men lose their nerve in the four remaining matches, a previously unthinkable chance of third place.

Kun AgüeroWith goals in seven of Atletico Madrid's last eight league games, the little Argentinian is pushing the Rojiblancos towards a spot in Europe next season – and perhaps himself toward a nice transfer away from the Vicente Calderón, considering Kun kept coy about his immediate future when interviewed in Monday’s AS.

Levante, SportingThe draw that was always going to be took place on Sunday with a 0-0 snore-fest with Levante and Sporting knowing that a point would do both their causes just fine. “Why not kiss each other!” was the chant from the stands from the unimpressed Levante fans watched the ball being passed about for 90 minutes, although Sporting boss Manuel Preciado said the result was far from written in stone. “When two teams need to draw, they draw. That doesn’t mean anything was decided before.”

Real SociedadAnother victory from a struggling side against one of the big two (and Valencia) to turn the relegation battle from its belly onto its bum. La Real stayed patient, kept up the midfield harassing and picked up three points after a late penalty strike from Xabi Prieto, who managed to hold his nerve with just eight minutes to go.

Racing SantanderA bad day for Racing owner Ali Syed after yet another no-show at his side’s game but a good one for his players (temporarily, any way, until muscly men and a van come to repossess them) with a 2-0 win over Mallorca.

Julio BaptistaFive goals in three for Baptista - including two headers on Sunday - makes it three wins in a row for Málaga and the former struggling side pulling away from the relegation zone.

Ikechukwu Uche, Queen LafitaA disciplined performance from the Zaragoza front two mirrored the way an admirable Zaragoza played across the park. The Nigerian striker served up two assists for Queen Lafita, with the first coming after an unfortunate missed swipe of the ball from Iker Casillas, as a pouncing Uche explained to LLL after the game.

“I saw he was coming out and I didn’t take my eyes of the ball," he told your reporter. "Unfortunately for him, he missed it and I got it. First I tried to shoot at goal but it didn’t come out the way I expected. Fortunately my team-mate was there and he could finish it.”

Zaragoza now have 39 points and the end of the season is looking very different indeed for Javier Aguirre’s men. Heck, they may even be able to avoid wholesale cheating in their remaining home games with the club’s ball boys and players refraining from chucking extra balls onto the pitch at inopportune moments for their visitors.

OsasunaAnother bottom-of-the-table team to triumph against top-three opponents: Osasuna's 1-0 win over Valencia came from a deflected shot from Alvaro Cejudo, the footballer signed to replace Juanfran during the winter transfer window. 

EspanyolWonderfully grumpy even when winning, here's Paul from Barcelona with some pitch side mutterings on Monday's 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.

"You would think after last week’s fun and games that the ref would try not to make any ridiculous decisions. Well we were wrong.

"A very even opening half-hour with an unrecognisable Athletic passing the ball and not bulldozing every Espanyol player. Gorka kept Athletic in it with two great saves until an offside Osvaldo – but here’s the kicker, the ball was last touched by a Bilbao defender therefore making him onside – scored to make it 1-0.

"Then three minutes of total madness. Some Athletic player showed Tom Daley how to do it, and, of course, he then got up and scored directly from the free kick: 1-1. Then an absolute stonewall, 100% pure wool penalty for Espanyol not given. Athletic lost the ball in their area, Gorka pushed the ball away, Ivan Alonso got the ball then had both his legs taken away from him by Gorka. The ref had the perfect view and didn’t give it. Now I will expect this sort of stuff at Camp Nou on Sunday but not at home to Athletic. Ivan Alonso then had the last laugh by scoring the winner from Osvaldo’s cross shot. Espanyol held on quite easily for the victory.

"About 500 Athletic fans - not bad for a Monday night - saw a very poor team who reverted to type second half by hoofing it up to Llorente (don’t understand the fuss at all). They looked much more dangerous playing the passing game. The pleasing thing for me was Espanyol weren’t bullied out of it by the La Liga’s premier bullies, with apologies to Racing. Maybe we won’t concede 10 next Sunday after all."–– Paul, Barcelona

BAD DAY

BarcelonaLLL suspects that Barcelona lost Saturday’s game after Real Madrid’s defeat just to annoy their Capital City rivals even further by making them regret their own slip-up against Zaragoza even more.

Real Madrid“An atmosphere of sadness and confusion at the Bernabeu,” noted AS editor Alfredo Relaño on Sunday, the day after another defeat for Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. He wasn’t wrong. The crowd was subdued before the game, subdued during it and subdued after. It was a collective shrug of indifference that summed up the performance of Madrid, especially in the first half.

Despite fielding the same front three of Kaká, Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuaín that tore Valencia a new one last week, the difference this time was that Zaragoza were sitting back with a five-man defence - which included Jiri Jarosik to make life extra-hard for the visitors - that didn’t allow Madrid any room for manoeuvre. The Forces of Mordor have now gone three home games in la Liga without a win.

Iker CasillasPoor Saint Iker spent part of the match with his arms wrapped around his head trying to blot out the image of the air-kick which gifted Zaragoza their first goal in the Bernabeu.

Martin CáceresThe Sevilla defender’s season is over after an outrageous high kick to the head from Almería’s Michael Jakobsen.

Diego ForlánIn the five games that Forlán has started from the bench in Atlético’s recent successful run, four have been victories with one draw. A move to Turkey this summer looks more likely by the day.

DeportivoA home defeat to Atlético Madrid and somewhat unexpected victories for la Real and Zaragoza really did put the crocodile amongst the pigeons for Deportivo, whose boss Miguel Angel Lotina is still trying to take the double big two defeats in.

“I’m very upset about the other results but I’m not going to fall for the temptation of criticising any team or any coach,” grumbled the Depor manager, whose side is now fourth from bottom, just one point off the relegation zone.

Getafe“We’re in a situation that we didn’t expect to be in,” admitted Míchel The Soon-To-Be-Fired-Manager after another defeat. Like Deportivo, Getafe have suffered enormously after the unexpected victories for Zaragoza, Real Sociedad and Osasuna. Next week’s home game against Almería could be the biggest of the club since their promotion to the top flight, bigger even that the two cup finals. Oh yes.

Almería, HérculesDefeats for both clubs against Sevilla and Málaga respectively means that both teams are pretty much burned toast with manky jam smeared on top. 

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