As the La Liga enters it final round of fixtures of the year, I take a look at some of the best matches from last weekend. As usual, I’ll be starting with the best first. You might want to stop reading here if you support Real Madrid or Barcelona..
1. Atletico Madrid 0-1 Villarreal
Ugh, just ugh. This was always going to be a tough match, as Villarreal are hungry to crush the mighty Atletico. Atleti’s home record had been entirely clean this calendar year, and if they had won this match they would have gone level with Barcelona in second place. My hope, of course, was that Atleti would crush Villarreal, but I didn’t expect a huge goal count given Villarreal’s eagerness.
It was a highly entertaining match with some truly beautiful football from Atleti, who displayed several nice moves that were clearly the result of many hours well spent on the training ground.
Three points seemed in sight when Mandzukic netted the ball early in the second-half, but alas, he was the victim of diving on the part of Villarreal’s Mario, who pretended Mandzukic’s glove was on him and hit the deck like a sailor in a storm. The referee, who was so very, very wrong, disallowed the goal. It was hugely unfortunate as Villarreal’s Luciano Vietto scored in the 84th minute, giving his team the leading – and only – goal.
Making matters worse, Vietto was a disciple of Diego Simeone’s, having been promoted by him to the first-team at Racing Club in Argentina. Before the match, he bounded over to give his former gaffer a hug. That was a sign of impending doom if ever there was one.
Simeone can hardly complain about simulated diving (cough cough David Beckham World Cup cough), and earlier Gabi had a very clear handball go unnoticed, but all the same, the disallowed goal was an outright robbery.
That said, Simeone has been criticised for failing to rotate his starting XI – Antione Griezmann surely should have started – and there were several fan remarks about the ‘subdued’ atmosphere at the match now that ultras Frente Aletico are officially banned (the nicer ones came without flags or banners). In this case, ignore the official club and coach press statements about the atmosphere being fine; they have to say that.
2. Barcelona 0-0 Getafe
Barca are the Titanic—a gorgeous ocean liner with every amenity and yet sinking fast.
Something is going wrong there and this goalless game is yet another symptom. That being said, thank you, Barcelona, for getting only one point. We like Getafe because Atleti goalkeeper Moya came from them — thanks for training him up, Getafe! A nice result for Atletico, but go-nowhere result for Barca, and I imagine that they are not too happy about that.
3. Real Sociedad 1-1 Athletic
Moyes: “At least a draw is better than a drubbing, right? Right, guys? Guys?”
No, he didn’t say that, but he did say, “There are a lot of things we want to improve, not just the physical part and the intensity but also the passing and the control of the game.”
Moyes had better get on it – or request a private training session on coaching from Simeone, because his La Liga performance has been rather slow thus far. The Sociedad squad has gems to mine, but he’s got to do the work, in my opinion.
4. Sevilla 0 – 0 Eibar
Another very considerate scoreline from fourth-placed Sevilla. It’s as though Sevilla and Barcelona got together and said, “Hmm, if Villarreal manages to beat Atletico Madrid, then what can we get Atleti for Christmas? I know! Nil-nil results from both of us, leaving us with just a point each and Atleti’s position unchanged!”
5. Deportivo 1-0 Elche
This Monday match gets the fifth talking point this week because these relegation-courting clubs were 19th and 20th in the table respectively, with ten points each before the match. With Deportivo’s Luis Farina scoring the single goal in the 22nd minute, Deportivo rose up the table to 16th place, which is great for them, not so great for Elche though.
Nothing else of interest happened this week.. Are we forgetting anyone? Hmm… Nope, I don’t think so.