If there was any team in Europe that needed a swift response during the weekend round of league matches, then it definitely would be Barcelona. The Blaugranas were stunned 2-0 in San Siro by a relatively young and less-experienced AC Milan in the UEFA CL knock-out first leg match. Against a resurgent Sevilla tutored by former Valencia coach, Unai Umery, Barcelona struggled to carve an opening in their league encounter, rather it was their defence that caved in when Sevilla’s Alberto Botia scored before the half-time break. But the team rallied back into the game with just five minutes into the second half. Dani Alves crossed an inch-perfect ball for David Villa to prod home the equalizer. Tello was introduced for the injured and ineffectual Alexis Sanchez, and the Catalan winger immediately impacted on the game with a return pass to Lionel Messi which was coolly slotted in for the match winner. Ahead of Tuesday’s Copa de Rey clash with rivals Real Madrid, the disturbing issue to urgently address is Barcelona’s licking defence which has failed to keep clean sheets in more than ten consecutive matches in all competitions.
In the same vein, Real Madrid came from behind to defeat basement club Deportivo La Coruna 2:1. Deportivo’s Riki opened account with a 35th minute shocker, having survived the host’s profligancy in front of goal. Jose Mourinho introduction of Ronaldo, Ozil and Higuain in the second half paid off as goals from Kaka (73rd) and Higuain (88th) ensured Los Blancos survived Depor’s scare.
Valencia and Real Zaragoza settled for a 2:2 draw, with Brazilian defender Jonas netting a brace for Valencia.
Giovanni Dos Santos drew first blood for Getafe but ended up in the losing side as Mallorca came from behind to eventually secure an 3:1 away win.
Real Betis shocked and bested fourth-placed Malaga with three unreplied goals to enhance their European qualification hopes. All first half goals from Jorge Molina, Mario, and Dorlan Pabon were enough to see off the Audalasians. Aside conceding a penalty in the 35th minute which Molina missed, Malaga also had Ignacio Camacho red carded in the 63rd minute.
Celta de Vigo reinVIGOrated their survival prospects after scraping through a 2:1 victory over visiting Granada. Celta struck the first goal of the match through Lago Aspas in the 24th minute but Granada restored parity four minutes later through Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo. Celta ensured all three points when Mario Bermejo scored in a rather fortuitous circumstance in the 81st minute.
Atletico Madrid restored their 12-points trail of league leaders, Barcelona. Still fresh from their surprised elimination from the Europa League by Russia’s Rubin Kazan, the Rojiblancos responded well with victory over Espanyol. Red-hot Radamel Falcao scored the only goal of the match from the spot in the 38th minute.
At the summit of the Primera Division Table, Barcelona lead with 68 points, closely followed by Atletico Madrid with 56 points. Title holders Real Madrid stay on third spot with 52 points, while Malaga occupy 4th position with 42 points.
1. Lionel Messi Barcelona 25games 38goals
2. Cristiano Ronaldo R Madrid 25games 24goals
3. Falcao A Madrid 22games 21goals
4. Ruben Castro Real Betis 21games 12goals
4. Aritz Aduriz Ath Bilbao 23games 12goals
4. Roberto Soldado Valencia 23games 12goals
7. Carlos Vela Sociedad 24games 11goals
8. Piti R Vallecano 22games 10goals
8. Alvaro Negredo Sevilla 23games 10goals
8. Helder Postiga Zaragoza 24games 10goals
8. Riki Deportivo 25games 10goals