Tim Stannard assesses a net-rippling weekend from Spain...
It was a weekend of mad scorelines in La Liga, including the headline-grabbing efforts of Real Madrid and Deportivo. Villarreal gave Rayo a head start in a 4-2 win in El Madrigal, Real Sociedad contrived to lose 2-1 at home to Almería, and with more madness in the Basque country, a wobbling Athletic Bilbao were rolled over at home by Granada.
But there’s no time to take anything in, as the action continues on Monday night with Getafe hosting Valencia. Then Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday...
Barcelona are looking eerily efficient
Midfielders smashing into posts for last-ditch tackles, Leo Messi turning into super provider, Neymar irked at having been taken off due to injury – this particular version of Barcelona is looking rather handy. Despite Levante going down to 10 men for some 50 minutes of the match, there was never any real danger of Barca slipping up in a game they would have made a gnat’s sandwich out of last season. Four games in, no goals conceded and Gerard Piqué getting to know the bench very well indeed.
Real Madrid achieve away goals record... and much more
LLL loves a good list. It doesn't always mean that anything constructive is going to get done, but an action plan reflects intent. Which is enough. If Carlo Ancelotti had one for the clash against Deportivo then it would have been pretty much completed, barring a lack of clean sheet and not having Iker Casillas wiped from history to avoid all political nonsense at the club.
Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed a hat-trick in the 8-2 win as he temporarily broke into a smile; Gareth Bale netted a brace so he didn't feel left out; James Rodríguez scored a long-distance whopper and Chicharito came on at the end to grab a tasty double. Among the Spanish contingent, Alvaro Arbeloa seemed less spiky than usual, while Asier Illaramiendi and Isco enjoyed some minutes to counter the comment from AS that the thumping win at Deportivo was “goalscorers without borders”. Non-Spanish, basically. Aside from that the paper was happy with the “goal orgy” that brought up Madrid’s third win in Riazor from 22 attempts.
On the footballing side, it is hard to take too much from the game due to its general madness and interesting defensive work from Deportivo, although coach Víctor Fernández did claim that the game was fairly equal until 1-0. Then it all went pear-shaped after that.
Sevilla’s solid start to the season
Sometimes the league table can cause a bit of a stir. LLL’s early impressions of Sevilla were of a side that had a lot of gelling to do after some big summer departures including Federico Fazio, Ivan Rakitic and Alberto Moreno. However, Sunday’s perfunctory 3-1 win at Córdoba moved Sevilla into second (with Valencia still to play) – rather promising considering there is still a lot of work to be done at the Sánchez Pizjuán.
Atlético Madrid still stuck in old ways
It wasn’t entirely blustering hot air from Diego Simeone when he claimed that the 2-2 home draw against Celta Vigo was the side’s best display of the season. In the second half, the Rojiblancos peppered the Galician goal with efforts, but the visitors prevailed. While nothing came through from open play, Atlético still had their ever-reliable set-pieces to fall back on with goals from centre-backs Miranda and Diego Godín. Indeed, only one of Atleti’s six league goals this season has not come from what Americans could call the team’s power plays.
LLL would like to note that the Vicente Calderón can be a rockin’ and rollin’ stadium before and during games, so it cannot really help the supporters and players to have a rather depressing minute’s silence before the game to commemorate the club members that passed away the previous year.
Athletic Bilbao’s slow start goes on
Qualification to the Champions League seems to have taken the wind out of the Basque club’s sails, with Athletic now having failed to score in their last three matches and losing out on Saturday in San Mamés to Granada, a stubborn old goat of a team that has only conceded two goals under Joaquín Caparrós.
Athletic now have just the three points to show for themselves, which is not a great situation considering Ernesto Valverde reaffirmed after the home defeat that “the league is our objective and I am concerned we have just three points”. Athletic supporters will be hopeful of adding to the tally shortly, with a midweek away trip to Rayo followed by a Basque derby with Eibar next weekend.
Celta Vigo remain the team to watch
This is going to be a bit of a recurring theme, but Celta’s magical moment this weekend came via the backheel of striker Pablo Hernández, who volleyed home while holding off Diego Godín, two impressive feats at the same time. “It was the only thing I could do as the ball was going long,” revealed the Chilean.
Eibar still pulling up a fight in La Primera
There is an expression in the Spanish football vernacular that speaks of teams sleeping at the top, bottom, or at various other points of the league table. It is used to make a point when the rest of the round’s games have yet to be played. With Eibar playing on Friday night against Elche, the Basque side found themselves ‘sleeping’ in fifth. By the end of the weekend, the side were a respectable ninth and the top-ranked Basque team in La Primera.
Espanyol’s luck still isn’t changing
A perfectly good disallowed goal last week against Valencia and now a ludicrously soft free-kick awarded against the Pericos vs Málaga, an injury-time set-piece that Duda sent sailing into the back of the net to give the visitors a 2-2 draw. “The man in black is always whistling against us,” moaned manager Sergio González with some justification, as his Espanyol side lie in the relegation zone with just two points.