It was a long two weeks of international football, waiting for league football to return, but it was worth it.
This weekend’s La Liga action showed the strength of the top three teams. Here’s a slightly biased round-up of the weekend in brief, starting with the best, of course.
1. Atletico Madrid reach a solid third place in the table
Atleti, who remain undefeated this season in home games, played a solid midfield in a 3-1 victory over Malaga, with standout credit going to Tiago, who opened the scoring in the 12th minute. There were concerns in the first-half; Arda Turan was kicked in the face by Vitorino Antunes, which went unpunished, but was treated for a bloody nose and soldiered on.
Malaga were poor defensively, and Atleti took advantage of it with Antoine Griezmann scoring a few minutes before the break. Griezmann is gaining momentum nicely, even though he never finishes a match; Simeone tends to take him off when he starts.
The second-half welcomed a reinvigorated Malaga side, who did a good job of marking Mario Mandzukic (who left the field with a thunderous face when substituted), and Roque Santa Cruz ultimately managed a goal. Atleti might have been feeling a bit nervous when the visitors clawed one back, but Malaga were soon down to ten men when Samu Garcia was sent off after being shown a second yellow card in what looked like a very light challenge (even to me, and I’m all for the opposition getting sent off).
In the event, Tiago again proved his worth when he sent the ball to Diego Godín, who headed into the back of the net with just seven minutes left on the clock. Simeone, who turned to the stands to cheer and jump with the fans, was well pleased. The only dark spot for Atletico was captain Gabi also getting sent off for a second yellow, which means he will miss the match next weekend against Deportivo.
2. Messi broke records! Oh, and Barcelona won or whatever
Barcelona’s 5-1 victory over Sevilla was perhaps secondary to the fact that Lionel Messi finally reached and then broke the La Liga scoring record.
But his two goals, plus a third for his hat-trick, helped Barcelona cruise to a victory that they frankly needed. In case you were blinded by Messi’s shiny light, Neymar and Rakitic both scored, too. I’m sure they were given congratulatory pats on the head in the locker room while a garland of roses dipped in gold was draped around Messi’s neck.
3. Real Madrid won again. Yawn.
Look, Real Madrid are great and all that, and yes, yes, Cristiano Ronaldo, rah rah. But all that winning is boring! Saturday, Real Madrid won 4-0 over Eibar, with James Rodríguez opening the scoring. Ronaldo then scored twice (the second from the penalty spot), before the last goal was netted by Karim Benzema.
The goal difference in La Liga is ridiculous at this point, with Real Madrid having scored 35 times, while Barcelona come in second-place with just 24. Barca, however, are just two points behind Real Madrid, and Atletico are hot on Barca’s heels, just two points behind them.
4. David Moyes’ inaugural match as Real Sociedad boss wasn’t thrilling
There are those who will feel that the 0-0 against Deportivo was more than Moyes deserved, but anyone who is not a Manchester United supporter will have been looking on to see how the Scot did.
Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be this weekend, starting with the fact that the Sociedad team plane couldn’t land in A Coruna due to a storm. Moyes later joked to the press, “I thought, does this happen every week in Spain?”
The late kick-off (10 p.m.) was also a surprise for Moyes, who said of the press duties taking place at midnight, “Well, normally I would have watched ‘Match of the Day’ and gone to bed.”
There was even a bit of drama within the match. Depor fitness coach Roberto Cabellud erupted about something, waving furious fingers at Moyes (who didn’t understand a word), and was ultimately sent off for his trouble. As for the match, Sociedad started well, with Carlos Vela enjoying full reign of the pitch and enjoyed several chances in the first-half, but they weren’t able to score. The second-half also failed to see either side get it together.
5. Valencia couldn’t ‘bat away’ Levante
It was reported earlier this week that Valencia are being sued by DC Comics in the U.S. (who own the Batman brand) for having a bat in their logo which is supposedly too similar to Batman’s. It’s a vastly silly lawsuit, although it’s rather charming that DC Comics feels Batman is so similar in might to the Valencia squad that there could be confusion.
There certainly wasn’t be any confusion this weekend, when Levante won 2-1 over the Batmen.. See what I did there?
Valencia’s Casadesus Victor scored the opening goal in the 58th minute, but Levante’s Dani Parejo equalized in the 74th minute, and then less than a minute later, Luis Morales scored to seal the win. Valencia now sit fourth in the table, two points behind Atletico Madrid.