FFT's Spanish expert Tim Stannard reviews another weekend of La Liga action...
It was oh-so tempting to put little Leo into the Bad Day section. Although he scored a hat-trick to single-handedly beat Valencia 3-2, the Argentine could have grabbed six in the Mestalla. Seriously. A coasting Barcelona should have had the game wrapped up by 41 minutes after going three goals up thanks to their terrific No.10. Instead they allowed former Spurs man Helder Postiga to grab a brace late in the first half. “We gave Valencia five or 10 minutes,” said boss Tata Martino. “One of the secrets of football is to not give chances to the rival.” Is it?
Two utterly stunning late saves from the young Belgian helped Atlético to a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad in San Sebastian, giving the Rojiblancos a spiffing 100 per cent record after three games. “The team has to keep on playing every game as if it were the last of the season,” declared Diego Simeone after the victory in Anoeta.
It's as if Villarreal have never been away from La Primera. The Yellow Submarine has resurfaced from its brief exile in the Segunda Division stronger than ever, having picked up three wins from three at the start of the season. “I congratulate the players as these types of games are really enjoyable for the coaching staff, who suffer so much sometimes,” beamed manager Marcelino after their 3-0 victory over Osasuna.
Isco certainly stole the show with another fine display and two goals to help defeat Athletic Bilbao 3-1, but Luka Modric was most excellent in midfield. Fast, dynamic and able to work in the smallest of spaces, the former Spurs player is ensuring Xabi Alonso may have to have battle to regain his spot in the team. That is, of course, should Carlo Ancelotti choose to play one or the other in Real Madrid's central midfield this season.
Levante should have been heading home pointless from Vallecas to Valencia - a fun trip at past one o'clock in the morning - but some fine stops from the goalkeeper just before the visitor’s winner saved the day. “Keylor kept us in it until the end,” was the praise from coach Joaquín Caparrós, “he’s a keeper I knew of but had never seen work and compete, and he will need to help us a lot this season.”
After bad start to the season with a defeat against Rayo, Elche are feeling their way into La Primera after picking up a couple of points in their last two games against Real Sociedad and Almería.
Victory against Getafe gives the Pucela side their first points of the season.
The cheery German predicted zero return from the side’s first three games of the season against Valencia, Barcelona and Sevilla. So Bernardo has reasons to be positive on Monday after Málaga picked up a point in the Sánchez Pizjuán against Sevilla. “There are some games coming up where we have more possibilities,” intoned the Málaga boss after the Andalusian draw.
Sevilla may still be finding themselves after just two points from nine at the start of the season, but one new signing got off to a solid start in the Sánchez Pizjuán on Sunday evening. Former PSG striker Kevin Gameiro bagged a brace in the 2-2 draw with Málaga.
Incredibly, the German who has been so sensational for the past couple of seasons appears to have become the sacrificial lamb for Ancelotti in trying to fit Isco into the line-up. Angel di María played on the right of Madrid's forward line in Sunday’s 3-1 win against Athletic, and the side looked considerably more balanced than when Özil has been crowbarred onto the flank.
Espanyol and Betis
The goalless draw between the two sides was not one of those that could claim to be tactically fascinating. It definitely wasn’t. Indeed, Espanyol manager Javier Aguirre didn't think there woulf be a goal if they “had played for another hour”. The Mexican’s counterpart, Pepe Mel, claimed the priority was “to pick up points. It was fundamental, not to lose against Espanyol.”
There were plenty of positives for Celta in their 1-1 draw with visiting Granada. A high-pressing game created plenty of chances, all but one of which were missed, however. That, in turn, allowed a more ruthless Granada back into the match.
The Rayo supporter group ‘Bukaneros’ held their promise by only entering the stadium after 24 minutes in protest at Friday night's 11 o’clock kick-off. Unfortunately, a few seconds after that moment Levante grabbed the side’s first of the night in a 2-1 win that was a little undeserved. “Football laughed at Rayo,” claimed Marca, the hosts having enjoying 75% of the possession and Levante having just the two shots on goal. “The result leaves a bad taste in our mouths, but we were phenomenal,” said coach Paco Jémez after the match, despite the home defeat.
If football matches lasted 80 minutes, then Almería would have a tremendously handy nine points from nine. Instead, the southern side have only got two after blowing yet another lead against Elche. Round one saw Almería at 2-1 up with seven minutes to go against Villarreal before losing 3-2. Last weekend a penalty five minutes from time for Getafe saw the team pulled back from 2-1 up.
On Friday evening it all got worse against visiting Elche. With just eight seconds left on the clock in injury time, Almería keeper Esteban took a free-kick and gave it directly to his counterpart in the Elche goal. The ball was swiftly returned to produce an equaliser for the Alicante outfit in a 2-2 draw. “It’s tough but we have to carry on,” sobbed Almería boss Francisco.
After quite a few seasons of being comfortably numb in mid-table, Getafe are looking for a bit of excitement. Defeat at Valladolid left the Coliseum club with just one point from nine, which at least makes life more interesting than normal. “A lot of things need to be worked on, and I’m first, but I don’t think the team have been that bad,” claimed manager Luis García, who declared the forthcoming home clash against Osasuna to be “a final”. Already.
An awful start to the season for Osasuna was completed with a comprehensive home defeat to Villarreal. It leaves the Pamplona club without a point and with coach José Luis Mendilibar in danger of the sack already, despite an emergency board meeting to discuss the situation. “I’m concerned about the situation of the team, not about me,” said the Osasuna boss.