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La Liga Week 26 Review: Villarreal Finally Victorious, Real Zaragoza Shock Basque Country

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RCD Espanyol 1 - 2 RCD Mallorca
Espanyol continue to play well below their potential and have now lost five of their last six games. This game started much batter for them and despite conceding a penalty for a foul in the 9th minute, they didn't found themselves down by one because Castro's shot was stopped by Idriss Kameni. Ten minutes later the Catalans took the lead when Álvaro Vásquez received a perfect pass that he slotted home. By halftime the score should have been tied but Mallorca had a goal disallowed for offside.

In the second half Mallorca staged a fierce comeback that started with Pierre Webo's header after a free kick (62'). The Cameroon international also had a couple of opportunities to put the islanders in the lead, but it was Emilio Nsue who had the honor of scoring the game winning goal. He found himself on the receiving end of a rebound left by Kameni and he calmly scored from close range (83')

Sevilla 3 - 0 Sporting Gijón
The hosts displayed one of their better efforts this season and overpowered the opposition. Racing were completely outplayed and finished the game with no scoring chances. Luis Fabiano was brought down in the penalty area by Sebastián Eguren who was also (unnecessarily ) sent off. The Brazilian took the spot kick himself and barely beat Iván Cuéllar (28'). With the man advantage Sevilla had no problems penetrating Sporting's defense and in the 35th minute doubled the lead when Diego Perotti fired a powerful shot from the left. Álvaro Negredo added another one after he was sent through all alone (65').

Villarreal 1 - 0 Hércules CF
Villarreal ended their season long four game losing streak with a close victory over the struggling Hércules. It was a hard fought battle in the middle of the field where Villarreal showed their superior skills and they usually brought the ball to the attack, where there is still some room for improvement in terms of consistency. Guiseppe Rossi scored the winner with a low shot, but he did look offside at the time of the pass. Nilmar and Santi Cazorla also had chances but both of them are far from their best form.

Osasuna 0 - 0 Deportivo La Coruña
Osasuna missed several golden opportunities to win the game but they were left frustrated by a combination of the woodwork and great goalkeeping from Daniel Aranzubia. Osasuna's league leading home defense completely stopped Depor's attack, limiting them to just one scoring chance. The hosts were also dominating in Deportivo's zone, but they were unlucky not to beat the Aranzubia or his posts and just as a week ago (against Real Madrid) the visitors have to be very happy that they escaped with a point.

Real Zaragoza 2 - 1 Athletic Bilbao
Real Zaragoza shocked the struggling Basques, inflicting them their fourth loss on the run, a season high. However, it was Athletic who took the lead from one of their rare chances. Fernando Llorente was left unmarked in the box and he had no trouble firing it past Antonio Doblas (18'). Zaragoza quickly reorganized and took control of the game. For the equalizer they had to wait until the 48th minute when Jirí Jarosik pounced on a badly cleared ball. Only seven minutes later Ikechukwu Uche beat Iraizoz to complete Zaragoza's comeback. With the lead they committed to defending, limiting Athletico to just one good opportunity, but Doblas kept the ball outside of the net.

Real Socieded 1 - 1 Levante UD
Valencia loanee Asier Del Horno's magnificent strike earned the host a point in the final stage of the match. I was a game dominated by both defences, meaning that none of the teams were able to prepare clear-cut chances for themselves. Together both teams fired exactly two shots on goal, but both of them crossed the goal line. First blood went to Real Socieded when David Zuruzuta scored while being one-on-one with Gustavo Munua (53'). It looked like it will be enough for the win with Levante struggling to do anything on the attack, but then out of nowhere Del Horno fired from 25 yards out to tie it up (77').

Getafe CF 1 - 1 Atlético Madrid
Both Madrid based teams were looking to make a step towards a European spot, but neither managed to do so. Getafe started the game brilliantly taking the lead in the 3rd minute. The play started with a 60 yard pass and ended with powerful shot from the right edge of the box by Manu Del Moral. The Azulones pushed for their second of the half but they couldn't beat David De Gea. After the break Atlético took control of the game, but they never really tested Jordi Codina until the 82nd minute when Diego Forlan chipped the ball into near the penalty spot were Elias headed the ball into the far corner for the tie.

Valencia CF 0 - 1 FC Barcelona
The most anticipated match of Day 26 did not disappoint and in the end Barcelona ran out deserved winners of a highly entertaining game. Barcelona had arguably the better chances, especially Lionel Messi, but Valencia put in a remarkable performance and could have easily taken at least a point. Los Che also had Jordi Alba's goal taken away for offside, much to crowd's dismay. Messi was not his usual self in this one, however, he did redeem himself for all the misses when he banged home Adriano's low cross.

UD Almería 1 - 1 Racing Santender
Almería were unable to secure a much needed win despite playing over 70 minutes with the man advantage. On loan Barcelona defender Henrique was sent off in the 17th minute for hauling down Pablo Piatti, who would have been clean through. Even with ten men the visitors proved to be very worthy opponents and they took the lead when Gonzalo Colsa beat Diego Alves with an acrobatic effort after a free kick (37'). Racing should have gone up by two but Alves anticipated Adrian Gonzalez's penalty shot and comfortably saved it. In the second half Almería played much better and they were able to to equalize through Albert Crusat's unstoppable 18 yard shot (64'). In the final half hour the home side had several excellent chances to take the victory, but they were left frustrated.

Real Madrid 7 - 0 Málaga CF
Poor Málaga had no chance in this one. It seemed like Real Madrid took out all their frustration from previous games on them. Three goals by Cristiano Ronaldo (51', 68' (pen.), 77'), two by Karim Benzema (27', 62') and one each by Angel Di Maria (36') and Marcelo (45') were enough to completely ruin the return of Manuel Pellegrini to Madrid. Málaga ended the game with only 9 players, one was sent off and another one got injured after all three substitutions were made. Ronaldo also left the game immediately after he completed the hat-trick because of a hamstring injury.

Recap
Since the coaching change, Real Zaragoza have been playing like a completely different team and if they continue playing as hard as they are now they will have no trouble remaining in the Primera División

To be honest I have no idea how does Quique Sánchez Flores still have the job as the coach of Atlético Madrid. His side have been playing uninspired the whole season, lacking effort and not for some late individual heroics the results would've been even worse.

Had it not been for Real Madrid's rout over Málaga, this would have been the lowest scoring week of the season with only 17 goals, but Madrid seven put that total at 24, which is still lower than a week ago. Penalty shot conversion was again very low with only one tally (out of possible three) coming from the spot. One player was sent of for a straight red and another went to the showers after two yellows.

The race for the Pichichi trophy is now again tied with both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo tied at 27

It has been a busy week in La Liga and it will continue in a three day weekend with match day 27.

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GP W D L +/- Pts
1 same FC Barcelona 26 23 2 1 64 71
2 same Real Madrid 26 20 4 2
43 64
3 same Valencia CF 26 15 6
5
13
51
4 same Villarreal CF
26 15 5
6
19
50
5 same RCD Espanyol
26 13 1
12
-3
40
6 same Athletic Bilbao 26 12 2
12 2
38
7 same Sevilla FC 26 11 5
10
1
38
8 same Atlético Madrid 26 10 5
11
2
35
9 same Real Sociedad 26 11
2
13
-5 35
10 up RCD Mallorca 26 10
4
12
-8 34
11 down Getafe CF
26 9 6
11
-9
33
12 same Racing Santander 26 7
9
10
-12 30
13 same Levante UD 26 8
4
14
-11 28
14 same Deportivo La Coruña 26 6 10
10
-14 28
15 up Real Zaragoza 26 6
9
11
-14 27
16 same Osasuna 26 6
8
12
-6 26
17 down Hércules CF
26 7
5 14 -15 26
18 down Sporting Gijón 26 5
10
11
-11 25
19 same Málaga CF
26 6
5
15 -24 23
20 same UD Almería 26 4
10
12 -18 22