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Saturday La Liga Round-up | El Centrocampista
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El Centrocampista

CLÁSICO JOY FOR BARÇA, BETIS STUN VALENCIA AND LEVANTE MARCH ON

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There is only one place to start this evening and that’s at the Bernabeau where Barcelona, despite conceding within the opening thirty seconds, were victorious in the first league ‘clásico’ of the season.

In a stunning start to the game, Benzema sent the Madrid crowd into raptures when he intercepted a horrible pass from Valdes to prod home from six yards after just 24 seconds.

It was a torrid opening ten minutes for Guardiola’s men who were understandable shell shocked by conceding so early on.

But after weathering the opening storm they managed to get a foot hold in the game which was rewarded by an equaliser by Alexis Sanchez whose brilliant strike was beyond the reach of Iker Casillas.

As tempers flared, Lionel Messi was shown a yellow card for dissent and was fortunate to stay on the pitch moments later after cynically bringing down Alonso in the middle of the park. It was a big call from the referee who seemed to be reaching for his back pocket again before realising who had committed the offence.

Real Madrid continued to apply maximum pressure to Barcelona with an admirable ‘pressing’ strategy that seemed to prevent the Catalans from getting into their normal rhythm.

But after being on the back front for the opening minutes of the second half, the Catalans took the lead with what was a somewhat of a ‘freak goal’ after Xavi’s speculative shot received the kindest of deflections courtesy of Marcelo and diverted past Casillas.

Buoyed by the goal, Barcelona started to assert their authority on proceedings and looked like the side more likely to extend their lead.

Sanchez tested Casillas from a tight angle, before a Messi free kick was just inches wide.

Anonymous for much of the game, Ronaldo had a great chance to level after 65 minutes but he failed to hit the target with a free header from six yards.

It turned out to be a pivotal moment in the game as just sixty seconds later Cesc Fabregas was on the end of a fantastic cross by Dani Alves to make it 3 – 1.

Barcelona had chances to extend the lead in the final ten minutes but a mixture of poor finishing and decision making meant that they had to settle for just the three.

The win sees them join Real Madrid at the top of the table with 37 points. They may have played a game more than their arch rivals, but considering that at 9.01pm they were six points adrift – they must be delighted with their evenings work.

Performances and results this season have led many to claim that Real Madrid has overtaken Barcelona as the dominant force in Spain. Based on tonight’s result, they may want to have a rethink.

A poignant reminder that the Champions aren’t about to relinquish their crown easily.

 

Valencia blew the chance to gain ground on the top two after losing two – one in a dramatic match against Real Betis.

Two injury time goals from Ruben Castro were enough to complete an epic comeback for Betis and see them secure their first win in ten games.

Despite going out of the Champions League on Tuesday, Valencia had been in fine form in La Liga and this looked set to continue after Jose Dorado inadvertently turned a cross by Mathieu into his own net.

But after Castro levelled with a header on the stroke of 90 minutes, he then completed a stunning turnaround by smashing the ball into the back of the Valencia net with just seconds remaining.

Even though we are only in December, the loss must surely end all talk of Unai Emery’s side breaking the Real Madrid and Barcelona monotony.

 

 

Levante managed to capitalise on their near neighbours defeat with a home win against Sevilla.

Victor Nano scored the only goal of the game in the 57th minute after he managed to guide the ball into the back of the net after a mammoth scramble in the Sevilla penalty area.

Sevilla had the better of the game after the goal, but never really looked like breaking down a resolute Levante rear guard.

The win sees ‘the frogs’ open a five point gap against today’s opponents in the battle for the final Champions League place.

In addition to securing the three points, Levante broke a La Liga record by fielding the oldest team to date in the competition.

Their remarkable season shows no signs of stopping.




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