As if Real Madrid’s season couldn’t get any worse, the ended out running out 2-1 winners to Girona on Sunday’s fixture with the Catalan side.
Despite going ahead early through the currently-unstoppable Isco, Los Blancos couldn’t hold on with goals from Cristhian Stuani and Portu finally sinking them.
At the opposite end of the league, Malaga finally managed to get a win 10 games into the season – a result which lifts them from the bottom of the table above an ailing Alaves side.
Colin Millar brings you five Talking Points from another week of Spanish football.
1 Athletic and Barca both happy
In the end, both teams came away reasonably happy from Saturday night’s prime-time game at the San Mames: Barcelona because they claimed all three points again. That’s now 13 wins from their last 14 across all competitions. For Athletic Bilbao too, this was a performance that was spirited, wholesome and, truth be told, deserved better than a two-goal defeat.
As a result of their loss, the Basque club slip to 14th in the standings with only one win from 11 in all competitions. It could be argued, though, this was their most promising display of a disappointing campaign to date. Peppering Marc-Andre Ter Stegen’s goal with 12 attempts, they forced the German into five saves. Barca’s goalkeeper was as important in this victory as Lionel Messi with Samuel Umtiti also a colossus in defence.
There are still doubts over the Blaugrana. Once again, they failed to be fully convincing and, as always, Messi’s first-half magic ultimately proved decisive. Paulinho’s second, as the game ticked into injury time, put an unreflective slant on the scoreline.
Questions must be raised over Ernesto Valverde’s selection, particularly with the absence from the starting line-up of Nelson Semedo and Denis Suarez, with Sergi Roberto reverting to right-back and Andre Gomes starting. But once more he emerged with all three points and the Catalan machine rolls on.
2 Malaga record their first win
24 weeks had passed and 12 different La Liga managerial appointments had been made since Malaga had last tasted victory. That was a 3-0 triumph over a second-string Celta Vigo in early May and it was the visit of the Galicians once again which led to Andalucian joy.
The result lifts the Costa Del Sol side off the foot of the table and above Alaves by a solitary point, whilst also alleviating some of the pressure from under-fire manager Michel. His son, Adrian, opened the scoring before a late Jose Recio penalty sealed the points after an Iago Aspas equaliser.
Following a string of star departures and little investment over the summer months, this season was always going to be difficult for Malaga. This victory alone will not be enough though. Two of their next three outings are trips to Villarreal and Real Madrid with a home clash against Deportivo La Coruna sandwiched in-between. They are going to have to pick up further points before there is going to be any optimism growing at La Rosaleda.
3 Girona stun Real Madrid
Two goals in the space of four second-half minutes produced the most eye-catching result of La Liga to date as newly-promoted Girona downed Real Madrid at the Estadi Montilivi. It was the first time since a defeat to Burgos in 1990 that Madrid had been humbled by a club in their debut top-flight campaign. Their defeat at the hands of Girona also ended a run of 58 matches, dating back to a loss to Almeria in 2008, since Los Blancos had avoided defeat against a newly-promoted club.
The victory was a triumph for hard-work and belief against a Real who looked weary and struggled to get out of first gear throughout. Despite Isco’s early opener, the Catalan club with came back strongly with goals from Christian Stuani and Portu turning the game on its head. Despite the fact there was a hint of offside to the second, having struck the woodwork twice, this result was no fluke.
It ended Madrid’s record run of 13 straight league away victories and brought them back down to earth eight points off leaders Barcelona.
4 Atleti’s goal struggles continue
Atletico Madrid were held by Villarreal in another frustrating encounter for Diego Simeone’s side in which their shortcomings were once again exposed by stubborn opposition. They have now failed to win nine of their 14 matches this season and have scored only 10 goals in their last 12. It is clear to see where their problems lie. But whether or not this is due to their shape, personnel or both is still up for discussion.
Los Rojiblancos historically struggle against Villarreal. Indeed, Angel Correa’s goal was their first against the Yellow Submarine in five attempts and it was not hard to see why. The game was gritty and had little rhythm giving rise to few clear-cut chances.
Atletico now face a battle on both domestic and European fronts. League points are being plundered and they host city rivals Real Madrid in a fortnight but their Champions League woes may become more pressing. With only two points from their opening three matches, they may need three successive victories to avoid an early season catastrophe.
5 Alaves down but not out
The weekend’s result saw Alaves sink to the foot of La Liga having suffered their ninth defeat in ten outings. However, whilst their position is far from ideal it is also somewhat misleading due to their tough start to the campaign.
El Glorioso are yet to pick up so much as a point in any of their five home matches at the Mendizorrotza – one more defeat than they suffered in the entirety of last season. However, the teams they’ve faced at home to date have been: Barcelona, Villarreal, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Valencia. Five of their defeats have been by a single goal and their defensive record (16 conceded) is better than two top-half sides.
However, firing seven blanks in ten outings their attacking deficiencies do need to be addressed urgently, with summer signings Ruben Sobrino, Bojan Krkic and Munir El Haddadi so far failing to impress. A gentler run of fixtures may prove to be the kick-start they need.
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