So, not a bad weekend for Barcelona at all then. Neymar and Leo Messi recover from iffy groins and kidney stones to beat River Plate in the tremendously prestigious Club World Club final. Meanwhile, Atlético Madrid fail to overcome to Málaga due to a late own goal to keep Barca at the top of the table, despite having dropped points over the two previous weekends and not even playing this one. Not bad at all.
Ten goals still fail to clear Real Madrid’s grey skies
Madrid’s ten goal demolition of Rayo Vallecano has kicked up a bit of a debate on the ethics of when to stop turning the screw during a thrashing - especially when the opposition are down to nine men for much of the game, as Rayo were on Sunday.
For a distraught Paco Jémez, the manner of the defeat for his team was humiliating, shameful and enough to make grown men cry in the dressing room. For Rafa Benítez, his team were merely doing what they were supposed to do during a football match and that is score as many goals as possible. With strike-hungry players like Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch, all other options were probably off the table, anyway.
But rather than the mood being celebratory in the Spanish capital, the vibe is a little bit sombre with the memories still fresh, that Real Madrid had an awful start to Rayo and were labouring at 2-2 before the referee reduced Rayo’s numbers down a tad. The crowd were on the players’ backs at half-time with Ronaldo even castigating the Bernabéu massive for being all with the doom and gloom. There was even a bit of afters with Sergio Ramos responding to a question on the appointment of Rafa Benítez over the summer by suggesting that Florentino Pérez was the king and the players were merely pawns. Even with a historically huge win, Madrid still manage to continue to be a page turning thriller novel. LLL is looking forward to the next chapter already.
No complaints from Simeone as Atleti miss table-topping chance
La Liga Loca was about to concede that even a goalless draw against Málága was a decent result for Atlético Madrid with the visitors not quite on form and the home side considerably more robust in recent weeks. But then a deflected shot from Charles squeaked in at the end to break a run of nine wins on the trot for the Rojiblancos and prevent Atleti from sitting atop the Christmas tree of La Primera. As usual, Diego Simeone was taking it on his magnificent chin. “You have to congratulate the rival, they played well and put on a great display against us.” The Argentinean didn’t even moan about the sending off of Gabi, during the second half. Ahh, Le sigh.
More missed opportunities in Mestalla for Gary’s gang
After a home draw for Valencia against Getafe - a fairly ding-dong 2-2 first half - there was a tick list of what worked and what didn’t for Gary Neville, who is still feeling his way into La Liga with two draws. “I could not have asked for more in terms of effort,” was the statement from the big man of the Mestalla in a post match press conference that was very much of the tactical variety. The big areas of concern for Neville are the ease at which counter-attacks are launched when the team is in possession. Transitions and things like that. Running back without the ball. That’s when LLL drifted off to look at Youtube clips of kittens.
The Getafe strikes on Saturday were of a more straightforward variety - a free kick and a pounce after a dreadful giveaway at the back from Aymen Abdennour. “It’s happened to me, it happens to everybody,” said an understanding Neville. But those goals lead to more dropped points in Mestalla this season, with Valencia managing just three wins from eight games, and five draws.
Perky pericos enjoying new lease of life on perch
It has been instant success for Espanyol coach, in contrast to Gary Neville, with Constantin Galca grinding out two wins in a week in the Copa and on Saturday in a Liga with a victory over Las Palmas. The scorer of the winner in both games was Felipe Caicedo, restored to leading the line for the Pericos, after being taken off at half-time against Celta last week, although the proud owner of one of the worst attempts to go round a goalkeeper in recent times during the 1-0 win.
Deportivo’s unsung striker keeps up European charge
It’s fitting that it’s journeyman player leading the way at a journeyman club with both Lucas Pérez and Deportivo having outstanding seasons. The 27-year-old scored his twelfth of the season and seventh in consecutive league games from the spot, to continue a spell in the lime light after a career that has taken in Rayo’s ‘B’ team and the Ukrainian league. Super Depor only needed 10 men for the final half an hour to beat Elbar and keep the Galicians in the top six chase. “It would be an honour to wear the shirt of Spain,” beamed the striker after the match, after his manager, Víctor, suggested that Vicente Del Bosque may want to have a look at him.
Every loser wins in first Seville derby of season
If the prime directive for both teams in the Seville derby not to lose then it was very much a case of mission accomplished for both teams with Betis and Sevilla playing out a goalless draw, although the visitors had the best of the chances. “Both Betis and Sevilla fans will go about the city on Sunday feeling more happy than sad,” noted the match report in AS. “A non-aggression pact before Christmas,” wrote Marca.
“The logical result for a team that cannot win at home and another that showed why it cannot win away,” was the wry comment from Diario de Sevilla. The two teams have a couple more chances to go at it in January in the Copa del Rey. May the goals rain down.
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