Tim Stannard on round two of La Liga as Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo fail to find the net again...
Ronaldo and Messi sidelined by supporting cast in La Liga
Now that’s more like it. After last week’s complete wash-out of fun, La Liga got its shooting trousers on with a whole bunch of goals. Indeed, just one set of teams failed to find the back of the net in their particular encounter (the guilty parties to be mentioned in a minute). Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi might want to hang their heads in shame too, for failing to score this season. Otherwise, the league goes into the international break with a couple of unusual names at the top of the table. And a big surprise at the bottom.
History repeats for Barça, who face a pattern in La Primera
“You get the feeling that culés are going to suffer more than they would want this season,” was the worry from Johan Vehils writing in Sunday’s Sport after the 1-0 against Málaga. The concern was not from the chances created, or Leo Messi failing to find the net in La Liga this year, but fretting over opposition sides defending deep and waiting for Barcelona’s forwards to keep on missing. Or goalkeepers playing blinders, as in the case of Málaga’s Carlos Kameni on Saturday.
The weekend’s clash at Camp Nou wasn't overly different to many a performance from Barça last season, when the team had to work patiently to secure the opener and then avoid a counter-punch. This might be a scenario repeated many more times this year in a La Liga Groundhog Day.
Only one unhappy man in Real Madrid camp
With a face that looked like its body was about to launch into a dressing room tantrum, Cristiano Ronaldo marched off the pitch, after a second fruitless match in front of goal in La Liga. Fortunately, that wasn’t the same for the rest of the team with James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale grabbing two each and a returning Karim Benzema grabbing the other. However, there was a suspicion that Ronaldo spent the game acting like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory at those whose goals should rightfully have been his. "You’re in my spot," must have been the constant refrain to his team-mates.
Aside from that distraction, this was the result and performance that Real Madrid needed, with some spectacular goals complementing Bale contributing to the cause and not getting in the way. And James putting in a sterling performance, having started last week’s season opener from the bench.
However, despite the manner of the victory Rafa Benítez still stuck to his core philosophy after the match. "As long as they go in, it doesn’t matter to me how they go in," said the Real Madrid boss after the 5-0 win.
Celta and Eibar off to flying start at table’s top
Now, LLL isn't one to blow its own trumpet and yell ‘told you so’ from the rooftops. Actually, that’s not entirely true. The blog loves doing precisely that simply because it only gets something right once every two or three years. The ‘Giovani dos Santos could be as good as Ronaldinho’ is a particular career highlight.
LLL said that Celta would be atop the table going into the international break, and so it came to pass with a 3-0 over Rayo, who were scuppered a little with goalkeeper Toño being sent off after nine minutes. Yes, Celta are only there alphabetically over the mighty Eibar but give a dog a pat on the back once in a while.
Like Roberto Soldado, Nolito is another Spanish striker who is hot to trot at the start of the campaign. He hit a brace against the Vallecans, although the finest effort was a hockey short corner routine for the third.
Walking hand-in-hand with Celta on the sands of happiness are Eibar, who completed a remarkable few months by taking full advantage of a relegation reprieve and beating a tired Athletic Bilbao 2-0.
Atlético let loose against sorry Sevilla
Another direct display from Atlético Madrid. Not in the ‘aerial bombardment from crosses, get it down the flanks’ variety but quite simply no-nonsense finishing from the three goalscorers Koke, Gabi and Jackson Martínez. The Colombian's curled effort was the best of a good bunch which secured yet another win for the Rojiblancos over Sevilla, who fielded Fernando Llorente without too many people noticing. "One of the best matches we’ve had away from home in a while," said a pleased-as-punch Diego Simeone.
Soldado shakes off Prem problems
Soldado has been the butt of one or two mean jokes over the past couple of years after a troubled low-scoring spell with Tottenham. Most of those gags have come from LLL, to be fair. But Bobby Soldier is back in business in his favourite climes of La Liga with a man-of-the-match display, two assists and one goal in Villarreal’s 3-1 win over Espanyol.
The Yellow Submarine may have also unearthed another torpedo of terror for opposition defenders in the form of Cédric Bakambu, with the French-Congolese striker coming off the bench to bag a brace. Periscope pointing upwards for Villarreal at the start of this season.
Valencia ready to rest up after sudden start
One team that will probably be delighted by the international break is Valencia, who have had the trials and tribulations of qualifying for the Champions League as well as the start of La Liga. The former went rather well, with the Mestalla men having squeezed past Monaco. It's not so good in La Liga, though, with a 1-1 draw at home to Deportivo partnering a goalless draw at Vallecas last week. At least Alvaro Negredo is looking sharp, with two crucial strikes in a week.
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La Real still firing blanks for David Moyes
Oh dear. Not the brightest of starts for David Moyes and Real Sociedad this season. Two matches and two goalless draws, despite the addition of Asier Illarramendi to pull the strings in the midfield. "Not our best day in front of goal," admitted the Scot after his side mustered just a single shot on goal in the 0-0 against visiting Sporting.
Athletic regretting Europa League
Although there may be rewards in 96 games in the Europa League, the Basque outfit are paying for the efforts of qualifying for the group stages – and the Spanish Super Cup – in their league form. Athletic lost 2-0 to neighbours Eibar to see the San Mamés side rock bottom of the table.