Thursday, April 02, 2020
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Barcelona kicked off first in this weekend's round of Liga fixtures and things started badly for them as they were missing Messi (whose flight had been delayed in Madrid of all places) and behind after 15 minutes. But they began their comeback 15 minutes later with Henry expertly pulling down Puyol's flick-on with the outstep of his right, before lashing to the far post with his left.

 

From there on they were by far the superior outfit, but despite enjoying almost all the possession, they were to need 45 minutes more, the invention and awareness of substitute Iniesta and no small amount of help from the linesman before they would take the lead on 76 minutes.

 

Replays show Gudjohnsen's assist was played from an offside position so Barcelona wouldn't have been the only ones relieved to see Yaya Touré making up for his (and perhaps the linesman's) earlier error with aplomb in injury time as he twisted and turned his way through the Mallorca box to smash home convincingly with his right. 

 

Next up was a crucial clash that saw Valencia strengthen their claim on Champions League football by rising to second spot with 3-1 victory over rivals Atlético Madrid. Valencia, the brighter from the start, came out shooting - literally. David Villa's early shot stinging Leo Franco's gloves from 30 yards set the tone.

 

Two disallowed goals for Silva and Villa and a glaring goal-line miss were to follow but it was to take another controversial piece of officiating before Valencia finally breached the Atléti's defences. A very dubious penalty was awarded on the half-hour mark after Baraja dived to ground in the box as the ball was centered.

 

Villa finished mercilessly, nevertheless, and the scintillating Silva was equally ruthless with his finish 5 minutes later. Atléti did manage to pull one back at the start of the second half with a Forlan penalty, but Silva sealed matters on 69 minutes with a stunning strike from the outside of the area to punctuate Valencia's superiority.  

 

Sevilla looked set to maintain second position until they conceded a late, late equalizer and then, to rub salt in the wounds, saw a last gasp effort tipped onto the bar and over.

 

Madrid didnt fail to capitalise, as they gained their second successive win under Juande Ramos with a hard fought 1-0 win over Villareal. Lassana Diarra and Huntelaar, Madrid's two new signings, would have been looking to impress as they reportedly fight it out for only one available place in the Champions League squad.  

 

Instead it was longer-standing heroes Robben and Casillas who ensured Real Madrid rose to 3rd position. Robben having flashed a shot from distance off the crossbar moments earlier was not to be denied at the second time of asking. Receiving the ball wide on the right he began a run right across the Villareal back four before curling the ball superbly into the far left corner. The match was end-to-end from then on with Madrid relying heavily on the outstanding Casillas to see out the win. 

 

However, Casillas's performance pales in comparison with that of the Recreativo goalkeeper Asier Riesgo; who saved not one but two penalties in their 3-1 vicory over Numancia which lifts them away from the relegation zone. 

 

Elsewhere, a Zigic return to Racing and the fruitful 'little and large' partnership with Munitis (that was such a success 2 seasons ago) didn't disappoint as he scored the match winner for the Santanderinos in their clash with Vallodolid.  

 

 

Almeria's new boss pushed his beginners luck to the limit in a 1-0 win over Betis which was very much against the grain of play, and Malaga beat Sporting by the same narrow margin from a Lolo near post header.

 

Athletico Bilbao rescued a 1-1 draw with a spectacular overhead bicycle kick from Iraola and Deportivo tied up this weeks round of fixtures with another spectacular match-winning goal, this one from Sergio means Deportivo La Coruña are up into UEFA contention.

 

Results: Valencia 3-1 Atletico Madrid, Barcelona 3-1 Mallorca, Valladolid 0-1 Racing Santander, Sevilla 1-1 Osasuna, Recreativo Huelva 3-1 Numancia, Real Madrid 1-0 Villarreal, Malaga 1-0 Sporting Gijon, Getafe 1-2 Deportivo La Coruna, Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Espanyol, Almeria 1-0 Real Betis

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