Real Madrid saw themselves move temporarily back to the summit of La Liga this weekend after a hard fought 4-2 victory over a stubborn Villereal side, before Barcelona would hit top spot later on Sunday night.
Villereal have come on leaps and bounds since their one season stint in the Spanish Segunda Division last year, with many of their players staying loyal to the club through their relegation troubles and reinstated the club back where it belongs amongst the Spanish big boys this season. And their successes have continued, with Villereal boasting a lofty 5th place position in the league thus far. They travelled to the Bernabeu in confident mood, but were undone in just 7 minutes, when a returning Gareth Bale who has been out through injury as of late, cooly chipped advancing Villereal keeper Sergio Asenjo from close range to put Real Madrid in front.
It didn’t take long for Karim Benzema to extend their Madrid’s lead either, with Bale this time turning provider for the French striker to turn home a cross at the far post.
Defender Perez Martinez responded shortly before the half-time interval, to give the yellows a fighting chance of a come back in the second half.
It wasn’t to be, and young striking sensation Jese restored Madrid’s 2 goal advantage just past the hour mark.
But back came Villereal 5 minutes later with an inch perfect free-kick from ex-Tottenham midfielder Giovani Dos Santos.
Benzema though ensured that Madrid would take home all 3 points, scoring with 15 minutes to go.
This was to be a bad start to the week for Athletico Madrid. Rival’s Real’s result meant that they would be level on points if Athletico would stutter on the road. And stutter they did, with relegation threatened Almeria grabbing two goals in a nightmare final 10 minutes for Athletico.
Garcia Rabasco got things rolling in the 80th minute, with a cross that caught out Aranzubia in the Athletico Madrid goal and sent Almeria into a shock lead. This goal came just one minute after Almeria gave Athletico a warning sign, with midfielder Vidal firing a shot that hit both posts and somehow staying out.
Things soon got worse for Athletico, with Aranzubia pulling down Almeria attacker Zongo for an Almeria penalty and a red card for him. Gabi donned the gloves for Athletico, but could not keep out Garcia for his second goal of the game, and a 2-0 win.
3 vital points see Almeria climb to 15th, and Athletico would ultimately drop to 3rd as Barcelona triumphed 4-1 away at Sevilla in Sunday’s late evening kick-off.
Barcelona were slow out of the gates however, and Sevilla found themselves ahead in the 15th minute through Alberto Moreno.
Their lead didn’t last for long, as Alexis Sanchez headed Barcelona level in the 34th minute from a Lionel Messi set-piece. Messi himself would get on the scoresheet before half time to send Barca in 2-1 up at the break.
Messi would continue where he left off in the 2nd half, scoring his 2nd and Barca’s 3rd of the night in the 56th minute after Iniesta picked him out.
Fabregas went on to put the game beyond all doubt 2 minutes from time, and leave Barcelona sitting pretty in pole position in La Liga, as week 23 comes to a close on Monday night.
Things don’t get any better for rock bottom side Real Betis, who were thumped 5-0 by a dominant Valencia side. It may have taken them 40 minutes to get going, but as soon as one goal went in, the Betis flood gates opened in the second half. The defeat leaves Real Betis bottom on 14 points on a -32 goal difference, 6 points and 5 goals adrift of nearest rivals Real Valladolid, who picked up a useful point against mid-table side Elche to keep in touch with their relegation rivals. The win for Valencia gives them much needed momentum if they are to challenge for European football next season, but they still have plenty of work to do.
Full results and the league table are as follows:
Friday 7th February
Espanyol 1-0 Granada
ESP: Alvarez Delgado so.30, Moreno 79
Saturday 8th February
Valencia 5-0 Real Betis
VAL: Mathieu 41, Alcacer Garcia 44, 68, Feghouli 62, Vargas 79
Rayo Vallecano 4-1 Malaga
RAY: Falque 26, 63, Arbilla 28, Larrivey 45+1 (pen)
MAL: Sanchez so.45+1, Iakovenko 72
Real Madrid 4-2 Villerael
RM: Bale 7, Benzema 25, 76, Jese 64
VIL: Perez Martinez 43, Dos Santos 69
Almeria 2-0 Athletico Madrid
ALM: Garcia Rabasco 80, 86 (pen)
ATM: Aranzubia so.85
Sunday 9th Feb
Osasuna 2-0 Getafe
OSA: Riera Magem 6, Torres 88
Real Valladolid 2-2 Elche
RV: Osorio 71, 78
ELC: Corominas 34, Del Moral Fernandez 66
Real Sociedad 0-0 Levante
Sevilla 1-4 Barcelona
SEV: Moreno 15
BAR: Sanchez 34, Messi 44, 56, Fabregas 88
Monday 10th Feb
Celta Vigo 0-0 Athletic Bilbao