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La Liga Week 21 Review: Barcelona Increase The Gap At The Top, Atlético Madrid in Crisis

Málaga CF 1 - 2 Real Zaragoza
Zaragoza recorded a comeback victory for their season high third straight win. The home side started very offensively and came close on a couple of occasions but they had to with for the 16th minute before they could celebrate a goal. Duda fired home a cross to put them in front and it should have been 2-0 just minutes later, but Rondon's shot hit the post. Zaragoza woke up after that early pressure and they tied the score when Nicolás Bertolo headed in a free kick (40'). The second half was full of back and forth action with quality chances on both sides but only the visitors were able to beat the goalkeeper. Substitute Florent Sinima-Pongolle put the ball just inside of the post after a great individual effort to get into a scoring position. (87')

Levante UD 2 - 0 Getafe CF
Levante ended a streak of five straight straigh losses with a commanding display over Getafe. The hosts played one of their better games of the season, with a good attacking game combined with strong defense; they limited Getafe to seven shots, none of them on goal. There weren't many chances in the opening 45 minutes as both teams struggled to make that final killer pass. In the second half however, Valdo found the net after a cross from the left side (47'). Felipe Caicedo then made it 2-0 with a beatuful chip over Oscar Ustari (54'). The pace of the game fell dramatically after the quickfire double and Levande deservedly won.

Real Sociedad 2 - 0 UD Almería
Sociedad ended Almería's four game unbeaten run with a strong performance in miserable conditions. Heavy raining turned the pitch into a pond before the game even started and both teams experienced difficulties playing. In the first half it looked like both teams had more problems with the rain than with the opposition, however, Real produced more scoring opportunities as they forced Claudio Bravo to make a couple of saves and Fernando Ulloa struck the post. Just before halftime the hosts took the lead through Jon Ansotegui. He headed the ball in after a badly cleared corner kick. The second half was less exciting and the only real opportunity resulted in a goal. Raúl Tamudo doubled the lead when he tipped the ball in after a short game of pinball in front of Bravo.

RCD Mallorca 0 - 4 Sporting Gijón
Gijón recorded their second straight and first away win of the season and they did it in dominant fashion. They got off to a perfect start as they took the lead in the 2nd minute through Diego Castro who capitalized on a mistake by Dudu Aoate. Mallorca controlled the better part of the first half and the first part of the second one but they couldn't get nothing past Ivan Cuellar, who made a couple outstanding saves. Gijón added to the lead when Roberto Canella sent the ball in front of the net where Kevin Garcia reacted badly and sent the ball into his own net (61'). Seven minutes later they scored again; this time André Castro scored on a quick counter and the game was all but over. The islanders were left completely humiliated when Nacho Novo scored on another counter (87')

Hércules CF 0 - 3 FC Barcelona
Barcelona managed to get revenge for their early season loss to the newly promoted Alicante-based side. Just as in the first game Hércules proved to be good opponent and despite total ball control by Barca, they were able to threaten Valdés early on a couple occasions. The constant pressure by Bluagrana proved to be to much for Hércules' defense and the finally broke when Perdo beat Juan Calatayud to the short side (43'). The second half was much like the first one until Francisco Farinos received a second yellow card in 16 minutes (85'). That set the stage for Messi who secured the win with a brace. His first was a shot from the edge that went just inside the post (87') and only a minute later he redirected Alves' cross into the open net.

Deportivo La Coruña 3 - 3 Sevilla FC
A thrilling match that ended with the result that was probably the most fair. The way this game started nobody would have imagined that the game would end with six goals. It was a slow first half, with very few chances and the only exciting moment happened when Lassas Nouioui fired an unstoppable shot past Palop (15').

The second half, however, was one of the best halves you will see in the whole season. Both teams went on the offensive and both had several good scoring chances. The game opened up even more after Palop handled the ball outside of the box and received a red card (57'). Lassas was again the scorer five minutes later after Depor completely outplayed Sevilla's defense (62'). Sevilla stormed back only minute later, with Álvaro Negredo scoring on a lucky break. Julien Escudé then capitalized on a mishandled ball by Daniel Aranzubía to tie the game (74'). Five minutes later the visitors took the surprising lead through Negredo, who shot the ball into the back of the net from a tight angle. Deportivo managed to score the equalizer in the dying minutes. Laure scored from suspicious circumstances as the assistant raised the flag for offside but the referee awarded the goal anyway.

Atlético Madrid 0 - 2 Athletic Bilbao
Athletic took a big step toward securing a spot in European competitions against one of their biggest competitiors. It was a hard fought battle with both teams playing good football, but the host held a slight advantage in the first half. The flow of the game changed when Luis Perea brought Fernando Llorente inside the area for a penalty kick, but the Basque fired the shot wide of the post. It didn't take long for Athletic to make the extra man count. Gaizka Toquero beat De Gea with a low volley after a prefect pass from Iraola (45+1'). Atlético tried their best to tie the score but always they came a bit short. Toquero then all but decided the game with his second, again receiving a pass from Iraola (64').

Osasuna 1 - 0 Real Madrid
Real Madrid's hopes of ending Barcelona's La Liga title domination suffered a huge blow after a shocking defeat at the Reyno de Nevarra stadium. It was far from a good performance by Los Blancos and it were Osasuna who had the early opportunities, with Coro and Pandiani missing the best ones. In net Ricardo also had a good night for the hosts denying several attempts.

The game started to break in the 62nd minute when Javier Camuñas was suddenly clear of the defense and he calmly beat Casillas to the inside of far side. Mourinho immediately responded by making three substitutions but despite the siege Real Madrid laid to the Osasuna goal, they weren't able to equlize. Osasuna actually should have scored another one when Krisztian Vadocz was all alone in front of an unguarded net but he had his shot stopped on the goal-line by a sliding Arbeloa.

RCD Espanyol 0 - 1 Villarreal CF
Villarreal earned a very hard fought victory in a thrilling encounter in Barcelona. Both teams played an attacking brand of football and the goalkeepers had to be on their game. Both, Idriss Kameni and Deigo Lopez, had to make several impressive saves to keep the opposition from scoring. Both of them also received a little help from the frame of the goal. Just as everyone thought the first half will remain scoreless, Giuseppe Rossi unleashed a powerful shot from a very tight angle that went just under the crossbar (43'). Despite good chances on both sides neither team managed to change the score in the second half.

Racing Santander 1 - 1 Valencia CF
Racing gave their new owners a reason to cheer with a surprising draw against the in-form Valencia. The visitors were the better team from the beginning but they struggled to prepare quality scoring chances for themselves. On the other side, Racing based their attacking game on counter attacks and they almost took the lead at the half hour mark but Rosenberg struck the post. They did score three minutes later when Ariel Nahuelpán headed the ball in after a defensive mistake by Banega (33'). All Valencia was able to get out of this game was a point and they needed an unstoppable strike from Tino Costa to do so. He brought down a corner kick on the edge of the penalty area and shot the ball into the top right corner of the net (78')

Recap
Atlético Madrid continue to struggle and if Quique Sánchez Flores won't be able to improve his teams' record he will soon be searching for a new job. A managerial change might is also possible in Sevilla.

The only noteworthy change at the top of table is that Barcelona increased their lead to seven points, at the bottom, however, teams continue to swap positions and now there is only a point difference between the 12th and 17th placed teams.

Only 26 goals were scored this week, seven less than the previous weekend and interestingly none of those 26 came from a penalty kick. Only one spot kick was awarded and that one went wide of the post. The surprising stat of the match-day is that seven players were sent off, the most since the beginning of the season.

In week 22 league games will only be played over two days; February 5 and 6.

 



GP W D L +/- Pts
1 same FC Barcelona 21 19 1 1 56 58
2 same Real Madrid 21 16 3 2
30 51
3 same Villarreal CF 21 14 3 4 20
45
4 same Valencia CF 21 12 5
4 10 41
5 same RCD Espanyol 21 12 1 8
1
37
6 same Athletic Bilbao 21 11 2 8 3
35
7 same Atlético Madrid 21 9 3 9
5
30
8 same Sevilla FC 21 9 3
9
-2 30
9 up Real Sociedad
21 9
1
11
-1 28
10 same Getafe CF 21 8 3 10
-5 27
11 down RCD Mallorca
21 8 3
10
-6 27
12 up Sporting Gijón 21 5
7
9
-9 22
13 down Hércules CF
21 6
4
11
-12 22
14 down Deportivo La Coruña 21 5 7
9
-12 22
15 up Real Zaragoza 21 5
7 9 -13 22
16 up Osasuna 21 5
6
10
-8 21
17 down Racing Santander
21 5
6 10 -14 21
18 up Levante UD 21 5
3
13
-12 18
19 down UD Almería 21 3
8
10 -16 17
20 down Málaga CF
21 5
2
14 -19 17

 

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