The La Liga title race intensified at the weekend, as Real returned to the summit accompanied with the customary controversy of VAR, whilst Real Betis renounced manager Rubi. Take a look back at an exhilarating weekend of Spanish top-flight football.
Stalemate in Seville
It was the first time since 2011 that Sevilla vs Barcelona had finished 0-0, a draw that would have immense ramifications for the Blaugrana, by dropping two points, Quique Setien’s men surrendered the initiative in the title race, and opened the door for a Real Madrid intrusion.
Lionel Messi had scored 36 goals in his 37 previous meetings with Sevilla, in fact on his last visit to the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuan, he scored a hat-trick. But Sevilla stuck to their task well on Friday night and limited the magician to a peripheral role for much of the game.
The only way to defend a Messi free kick 👀 pic.twitter.com/xBxVNimub8
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 19, 2020
If Barcelona end up losing the league, it will be because of their mediocre record on the road this season. Since Setien replaced his predecessor Ernesto Valverde, Barca have repeatedly under-performed in enormous games away from the Camp Nou: with defeats at Valencia, Athletic Club (in the cup), Real Madrid, and now this draw.
In fact, their home record is a stark contrast to their abysmal away form: the Catalans have claimed just 22 of 45 points away from home, with only six wins from their fifteen games, as well as five defeats and four draws, compare that to the Camp Nou, where they’ve won 43 of a possible 45 points, with just two dropped in the 0-0 draw against Real Madrid in December.
Worrying, considering half of Barca’s remaining league games are on the road: Celta Vigo, Villarreal, Real Valladolid and Alaves.
Leganes indebted to luscious leveller
In a weekend of football that produced the stunning solo effort courtesy of Valencia’s Goncalo Guedes, his first La Liga goal of the season, you would’ve been hard pressed to find a superior strike.
Gonçalo Guedes’ first goal of the season…pic.twitter.com/JOdaOpp7fM
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) June 21, 2020
But, unfortunately for Mallorca they found themselves at the mercy of a marvellous piece of mastery from Real Madrid loanee Oscar Rodriguez, whose missile free-kick in the 86th minute meant the three-points were snatched away from the home side.
“It’s too far out for a shot, even for Óscar…”pic.twitter.com/jWVFxlotvi
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) June 19, 2020
His ninth league goal of the season was the fourth free-kick the Spaniard has scored this campaign, only Lionel Messi has scored as many in La Liga. It ensured his Leganes team did not face defeat to Mallorca, who are two points above Lega and before Friday, were the only other team still to collect a point after the restart.
The result means that Leganés sit 19th, two points behind Real Mallorca in 18th, and if Los Pepineros are to go down, Oscar Rodriguez won’t be short of suitors should Madrid loan him once again.
Triple threat: Real, Ramos & Referees
With Barcelona falling on Friday, it was all set-up for Madrid on Sunday against Sociedad to steal the summit. Real Madrid re-gained leadership of La Liga, but not without controversy.
The eventual 2-1 winners were overshadowed by three contentious decisions going their way at key moments: a penalty on Vinicius; a Real Sociedad goal disallowed for offside because Mikel Merino was in front of Thibaut Courtois, and a Karim Benzema goal having controlled with his chest/shoulder/arm.
The first, the least controversial of the three: Vinicius Jr went down under pressure from Diego Llorente in the box, which allowed Sergio Ramos to step up and slot home from twelve yards, his 68th career league goal, making him the highest goal-scoring defender in the league’s history, pipping notable names including: Ronald Koeman, Fernando Hierro and Roberto Carlos.
It was the decision to rule out a potential Real Sociedad equaliser which turned attention on the officials. Mikel Merino was clearly in an offside position during Adnan Januzaj’s glorious strike, but was deemed to interfere with play, and as fate would have it, salt was rubbed into the wounds of Sociedad – barely a minute later, Benzema scores what would be the winner, after controlling the ball with what he pointed to in his celebration, his shoulder, though many believe it was his arm.
Januzaj scores for Real Sociedad with a great strike…but it doesn't count! 😮
It's ruled out for offside with Merino deemed to be in an active position in front of Courtois ❌
Karim Benzema then went down the other end a minute later to double Madrid's lead ⚪ pic.twitter.com/vqwAXpQCmJ
— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) June 21, 2020
The result means that with eight La Liga games to go, Los Blancos are in the driver’s seat, top of the table, ahead of Barcelona.
Vertigo in Vigo
A weekend where Vigo had the Midas touch: their performance not only decimated two damning statistics, but they were able to widen the distance between themselves and the drop whilst wholly receiving the full benefits of their risky transfer strategy. A weekend of pure perfection for The Sky Blues.
Going into their contest, Celta were the only team in La Liga who were still to score since the restart and were also the league’s lowest scorers overall. But, by halftime, they corrected all, as they led 4-0 with goals from Jeison Murillo, Iago Aspas and two in two minutes from Rafinha, putting the result beyond any doubt; the brace from the Brazilian earning him ‘player of the week’, according to WhoScored.
The next 45 minutes proved just as fruitful; emergency signing Nolito, signed in replacement for injured back-up goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez, a transfer which raised eyebrows, injected an impressive cameo: scoring a penalty and providing the assist for Santi Mina’s goal which completed Celta’s biggest La Liga win since 1947.
Celta Vigo's back-up goalkeeper got a long-term injury.
Celta were allowed to make an emergency signing per La Liga's rules.
They signed former striker Nolito 👀 pic.twitter.com/CZWVVcmhpL
— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 18, 2020
The result means that one, Celta are no longer the division’s lowest goal scorers, 5 goals in-front of the division’s newest lowest goals scorers: Leganes, and two, now 16th on 30 points, four points ahead of Real Mallorca in 18th.
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