Sunday, February 25, 2024

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Spanish La Liga review - Snowball attacks and fight-backs as Barca go 12 points clear

Some unbelievable weather and even less believable comebacks were to set the tone for this week's round of La Primera division. With some great examples of the latter setting up the start of the weekend's fixtures. 



Sevilla, first off this week, were away at in-form Deportivo and, after an opening half-hour of relatively few chances, they suddenly found themselves both a goal and a man down. Rodolfo Bodipo's goal on 34 minutes - struck firmly past Palop at near post- was followed by the dismissal of Maresca for flattening Bodipo with his forearm in an attempt to disrupt a Deportivo counter-attack.  



Cue the introduction of Kanoute and the start of one of the many great comebacks of the weekend. In the 51st  minute Luis Fabiano smashed into the roof of the net to equalize after some fantastic work from Kanoute to first beat his man in the box and then flash a low pass into the Brazilian’s path.  


The second was the result of a great switch of play from Sevilla. Jesus Navas played a searching ball -left to right- out to Kanoute on the byline. He controlled, turned and duly sent a pinpoint cross back to pick out the arriving Renato, whose diving header put the 10-man Sevilla side ahead. 


Navas made sure of the victory late in injury-time, breaking away from Zé Castro with a frightening burst of pace and sliding the ball across the box for Capel to tuck away. 


An enthralling Valencia-Villareal tie was next up, and as with last week's win over Atlético, Valencia started very brightly.Their fast, sharp passing style instantly found reward as Baraja crept behind Villareal's central pairing in the first minute to head Joaquim's flighted cross past Villareal keeper, Lopez. 


Not long after David Villa latched onto an excellent through-ball from Albelda, turned his marker inside out, and rifled in a second goal for the home side. It all seemed plain sailing for Valencia until Fuente snuck one back with a far post header just after halftime.   


Llorente drew Villareal level on 77 minutes, when after seeing his first shot blocked he rifled back the rebound with interest. Portsmouth target, Edu, then came off the bench to score what looked like the winner for Valencia, but when Joaquim brought down Capdevilla in the box Guiseppe Rossi (formerly of Man United) converted the resulting penalty. 


The draw for Valencia, of course, meant that Madrid had the chance to make some more ground with their very own comeback - that of regaining a respectable standing in the league having been out of even the UEFA standings not so long ago - and they did so in convincing fashion. 


Robben was in sparkling form again and put them ahead after just 2 minutes when the equally impressive Higuain spotted him hovering on the half way line out of sight of his marker. By the time Higuain's curling backspun ball had landed in the path of the flying dutchman, he'd already opened a 4 or 5 yard gap that gave him more than enough time to compose himself for a  side-footed finish past the keeper.  


Higain made the second, too. This time a burst of pace sent him past 3 to the byline where he cut the ball back for Raul to finish, perhaps over elaborately, with the heel of his trailing leg.  


Ramos then completed the scoring on 66 minutes with a well taken volley through the goalkeeper’s legs to put Madrid up to second place in the table. 


Atletico Madrid were also hoping to make up some ground on their rivals after 2 straight defeats. The Bilbao shotstopper, Gorka Iraizoz, was no doubt anticipating his goal would be peppered with shots, but the fact the shots were infact a rain of snowballs flung from the Atléti fans may have come as a suprise.  


Such was their persistence that the start of the game was delayed for 5 minutes, but whether it was the tannoy announcements pleading for calm or the exhaustion of ammo that stopped the bombardment is unknown. But it surely served as ample motivation for the visiting Basque side who were to be another of the teams to come from behind to win this weekend. 


Atléti had gone ahead after 15 minutes through a deflected Antonio Lopez effort but were pegged back after 45 minutes by a fizzing low strike from more than 30 yards from Bilbao's Koikili 


A well taken brace from Llorente put them 2 and 3-1 up, and although Forlan would get one back it wasn't to be enough to avoid a 3rd successive defeat and calls from the Madrid crowd for manager Aguirre to go.   


The penultimate great comeback of the weekend belonged to Español as they recovered from 2 -0 down (from an Uche brace) to draw level deep into injury time, through a beautifully struck free kick from Nico Pareja. 


The Pamplona pitch for the Osasuna-Barcelona fixture needed more than eleven hours work to get it playable, but players still had to brave freezing temperatures, thick fog and 70% humidity in the late-night fixture.  


Those weren't the only difficulties Barca were to face. Despite going one up just before halftime through a sterling strike from Samuel E'to, assisted by Messi, two breakaway strikes from Flaño and Pandiani (who's averaging a goal every 88 minutes I might add) meant they found themselves 2-1 down with just 13 minutes to play.  


Barca, however, then  clicked up through gears other football clubs just don’t have. Firstly they equalized thorugh some nice interplay culminating in a sharp finish from Xavi, before a quite stunning winning strike from Messi that would surely have done his claims for Monday's FIFA world player of the year award no harm at all. 


Getafe came off even worse in the bad weather with the referee giving a straight red to their goalkeeper, who seemingly made no contact at all on the Numancia forward in a fog filled penalty box. Numancia took full advantage of the resulting penalty and ran out eventual 2-0 winners.  


Racing meanwhile were robbed of victory by a Camuñas wondergoal and Sporting and Malaga's 2-1 wins took them all the way to the dizzy heights of 8th and 9th place.

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