Friday, July 19, 2024

The Latest Football News and Opinions From 90 Minutes Online

Is the sharp end of the season about to burst Barça's bubble?

'Pop' -
That was the sound of the Barça left back-Eric Abidal's groin muscle tearing after 20 minutes. Or was it perhaps a warning shot for worse to come for the Catalan league leaders?


For the next card fate dealt FC Barcelona in their top v bottom derby with Español was a red one, and a very dubious red at that. 



Keita's late tackle, despite seeming to make little if any contact with the player, was judged a red card offense by ref Delgado Ferreiro and so Barca found themselves suddenly down to 10 men with more than half the game remaining. 



Barça, being Barça, continued to pour forward in numbers but it was precisely that trait that Español looked to exploit with quick counter attacking moves exploiting the space left behind. 


One such counter-attack on 55 minutes looked for all appearances to have come to nothing but then a clever fake,drag-back turn and looping cross to the far post from Neñe gave De la Peña his chance to nod in for his first league goal in more than 4 years. 


He didn’t have to wait more than four minutes for his second, as Keeper Valdes handed it to him on a plate with a mis-placed pass that fell directly in the midfielder’s path. 


10 minutes later Yaya Toure lashed in to make it 2-1, but Guardiola then withdrew Eto'o for the unimpressive Gudjohnsen, and both the momentum and the game were lost. 


Over in the UK, Manchester Utd went 7 points clear with their 2-1 win over Blackburn on Saturday, and for most Premiership pundits the league is all but over. In contrast, here in Spain the fact that the lead has been cut to just 7 points means the league is very much back on, at least for the Madrid based media anyhow. 


However, given Barca's rich history of bottling league leads and the emphatic manner and scoreline with which Real Madrid dispatched with Betis on Saturday, they might just be on to something.  


Real spurred on by the incoming reports of Barça's fate went straight for the jugular with all their goals coming in the first half and 3 of which scored in the opening 25 minutes (Higain 6, Huntelaar 14, 23).  


Oliviera then got one back for Betis but Raúl then added another two - one a delighful first time finish from outside the box with his trailing leg and the other the sort of top-spin lob that only world class strikers and top ranked tennis players can manage. Sergio Ramos then put the cherry on the cake with the sixth - a splendid diving header from a set-piece delivery. 


One thing's for certain anyhow, Real certainly far outshone their 2nd placed counterparts in the Premier League. Who, in case you'd forgotten, will be Real's next opponents at the Bernabeu on Wednesday. The only positive news for the scousers being that Huntelaar is ineligible for Champion's League football. 


3rd place Sevilla, meanwhile, faced the other Champions League contenders, Atletico Madrid, at home. But it was the away side however who created most chances in the game. Forlan unfortunately headed the best of which onto the bar, having been unmarked and right in front of goal in the first half. A miss he would prove to pay dearly for when, in the 88th minute, Navas stepped up to sneak a late winner for Sevilla. 


Valencia's wobble worsened this weekend as Villa went from hero to villain in the space of 50 minutes. Having scored a delightful opener in the 25th, he then received a second yellow in the 75th for a badly timed challenge on the Deportivo keeper, and Lopez went on to equalize moments later. 


The Atlético and Valencia slip-ups meant that Villareal now leap frog into 4th spot after Rossi and Capdevilla goals led them to a 2-1 victory against Sporting. The pair have now scored all Villareal's goals in the last 2 months!  


Similarly Malaga's convincing 3-1 win at Vallodolid means they now swap places with Atletico to sit in sixth place and UEFA contention. 


Rafa Nadal would surely have appreciated Raul's earlier top spin lob efforts at the Bernabeu but he was instead to be found at his home team's ground for Mallorca's game against Racing. Nadal was given a medal and paraded around the pitch wearing a Mallorca kit with his name embossed on the back (despite rumours he's actually a Real fan). 


Whether the Ref was slightly intimidated by Rafa's celebrity status or oversized right arm is unknown, but he certainly proceeded to make some particularly generous decisions in the home team's favour. He red-carded Garay for little more than a shoulder to shoulder run, and then awarding a dubious last gasp penalty which although Toño managed to stop he could only parry it as far as the on-rushing kick taker Jurado to finish. 


Elsewhere, Almeria did it the hard way again this time, drawing 1-1 with 10 men after last weeks 3-2 win with 9. Llorente returned from injury to rescue a point for Bilbao at Getafe with a nice turn and half volley to take the score to 1-1 and his season's goal tally to 10. Finally Osasuna keep their heads just above water in 17th place with their 2-0 win at Numancia.   


Click here for a video resume of this week's fixtures








Mallorca 1 Racing 0

Osasuna 2 Numancia 0

Valladolid 1 Málaga 3

Recreativo 1 Almería 1

Getafe 1 Athletic 1

Deportivo 1 Valencia 1

Villarreal 2 Sporting 1

Barcelona 1 Espanyol 2

Real Madrid 6 Betis 1

Sevilla 1 Atlético 0   





League standings 


1 Barcelona 60

2 Real Madrid 53

3 Sevilla 44

4 Villarreal 41

5 Valencia 39

6 Málaga 39

7 Atlético 36

8 Deportivo 36

9 Athletic 31

10 Valladolid 30

11 Racing 29

12 Getafe 28

13 Almería 28

14 Sporting 27

15 Recreativo 26

16 Betis 26

17 Osasuna 24

18 Mallorca 24

19 Espanyol 21

20 Numancia 20

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