Good Day, Bad Day: Perfect Pedro and Awful Atlético

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


The league has got to such a barmy bipolar state that panic breaks out across the Spanish sporting media unless Barcelona thrash another side a billion nil. In the English Premier League, sides such as Manchester United have off days – ones where they eke out points rather than rubbing their tackle in their opposition’s faces for 90 minutes – without everyone flapping their arms about in panic. But in Spain, this simply isn’t tolerated. Barça weren’t great against a disciplined Levante, but Pedro was with two goals that gave his team the three points, which is all that matters really.

Cristiano Ronaldo
One of the more admirable traits of Cristiano Ronaldo is that he belongs to the dwindling breed of football who probably who hates the winter break in the season – potentially the only la Liga player of this ilk. The week away from work stopped the Madrid forward from running around like a loon whilst falling over a bit and scoring lots of goals. A brace against Getafe puts Ronaldo clear at the top of the striking charts with 19 league goals – not even at the halfway stage.

“If you're going to die, then die on your feet,” wrote Tomás Roncero in AS in admiring Getafe’s performance against Madrid in the Coliseum on Monday night. More often than not, it’s not Real Madrid’s fault that their games can be a dull as ditch water when facing supposedly lesser opposition – it’s just that opponents can lack ambition when playing them. See Espanyol’s waste-of-space performance at the Bernabeu earlier in the season.

But when teams do have a pop, as Real Sociedad and Hércules showed, it can bring out Madrid’s highly entertaining, battling properties and make it quite a game with yellow and red cards aplenty. Getafe had won their last four league games and sat in seventh, so they were able to throw everything they could at Madrid in what was a cracking Coliseum clash.

Borja Valero
A goal from one free-kick and an assist from another keeps Villarreal ticking over in third with a perfunctory performance in a 2-0 win against Almeria.

A ludicrous own goal from Ricardo Costa – think stooping Trevor Brooking header, but in the wrong bag – looked like giving Espanyol a draw in Mestalla. But things went 10-man Valencia’s way for once and Juan Mata headed home an injury-time winner. It was a light year offside, but victorious gaffer Unai Emery seemed not to care: “I understand that Espanyol feel cheated but we also feel cheated," shrugged the madcap Mestalla mister. "Both sides have cause for complaint.”

Jesus Navas
(Sigh) That was painful. Still, Sevilla’s frackin’ awful 1-0 win against Osasuna, which went on and on and on and on and on and on, did give LLL a chance to start working its way through all the leftovers lurking in the fridge from Christmas and New Year. Which means the increasingly portly blog should probably go for a run or something rather than writing this nonsense.

The only bright spot in the game which ended an appalling run of five matches without a league win for Sevilla was the return of Jesus Navas, whose free kick set up Freddie Kanoute for the winner and whose pass to Alvaro Negredo was Sevilla’s other decent chance of the night.

For those puzzled – terrified, perhaps – by the notion of Deportivo being capable of scoring two goals away from home, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation. The first effort was a penalty and the second was a deflected shot, both from Adrián. So no need for packing everything up into a van and heading for the hills to await Armageddon just yet.

Because the LFP apparently couldn’t be bothered opening their offices to register new players until January 3, Málaga couldn’t field their gaggle of new signings such as goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo and Martín DiMichelis. However, the old lot that had lost the last two league games along with a cup clash against Sevilla (conceding 12 goals along the way for good measure) managed to pick up a 2-1 win against Sporting on Saturday. It was almost enough to make Manuel Pellegrini smile.

The Racing ‘keeper kept out Atlético’s attack for 90 minutes in a goalless draw at the Vicente Calderón. That’s one of the reasons why Toño is reportedly target for Pep’s Dream Boys to replace current reserve keeper José Pinto – that and the latter’s current taste for braiding his hair like a seven-year-old girl.

Blimey. Zaragoza left it very late indeed with a strike from Braulio giving the side a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad and their first victory under Javier Aguirre.

Steadied a wobble of three matches without a win with a 3-0 victory over Hércules.


Atlético Madrid
One year older and one year wiser. That’s what LLL realised upon taking the decision not to head to the Vicente Calderón to catch Atlético Madrid against Racing – that and the desire to catch the mighty Getafe battle Real Madrid, too.

What the blog missed seeing in glorious Technicolor was Atleti throwing away yet more points at home as the side has already done against Almería and Espanyol with a goalless draw against the side from Santander.

“Racing came to buy a point at the Calderón and found the sales had begun,” noted AS. The Rojiblancos were without the departed Simao, the suspended José Antonio Reyes and the sitting in the stands looking quite chirpy on the whole Diego Forlán.

Rarely has a defeat – a 3-0 loss to Mallorca, even – been so richly deserved for an institution that LLL has taken a real dislike to after match-fixing allegations have been followed by continuing stories of players going unpaid.

Star loanee Royston Drenthe – who can hardly be doubted for his commitment levels, having considered buying out his Real Madrid contract to face his parent club – complained that he hadn't been paid for five months, and protested by returning late from the winter break.

The Dutchman returned to Alicante to find that he needed police protection from a hate mob gathered at the airport to greet him. Back at his house, the walls had been scrawled with abusive messages such as ‘KKK’. Meanwhile, Hércules president Valentín Botella and coach Esteban Vigo condemned their player in public. Lovely stuff.

Athletic Bilbao
‘Tis true that Athletic were reduced to nine men (and Deportivo to 10) by a self-loving referee who felt the players were getting far too much attention, but the Bilbao bunglers only had themselves to blame for Sunday’s home defeat.

Centre-backs Mikel San José and Ustaritz Aldekoaotalora Astarloa (oh yes) both saw red, but Athletic blew their own foot clean off with a sporting bazooka by giving away a penalty in the first half and proceeding to miss a number of clear chances, the main culprits being Fernando Llorente (unexpectedly) and Gaika Toquero (very much expectedly).

LLL’s bold fourth-placed-finish prediction for Athletic is being made to look very silly indeed thanks to dumb-ass results like these.

Manuel Preciado
The Sporting fans are an admirable and loyal lot, but it seems even their patience has been pushed too far by defeat to Malaga, judging by the grumblings in Gijón and on the club’s message boards.

No, not for having a girl’s name – literally – but the Espanyol defender has ended up in LLL’s bad books for an outrageous injury fake to get Aritz Aduriz sent off.

The two players were having a bit of a tussle over a set-piece, as you do. The Valencia forward swung his arm somewhat more forcibly than normal to catch Chica on the wrist. This then forced the pathetic Perico to the ground, holding his arm like Peter Duncan in Flash Gordon.

But instead of declaring “spare me the madness!” and calling for a swift death, Chica dragged himself off the pitch for treatment and then trotted back on seconds later.

The whole unsavoury incident proved once and for all that most footballers are reprehensible scumbags who will gladly screw each other to gain any kind of advantage. A bit like journalists, really.