In a midweek matchday packed full of headlines, it is Luis Enrique who stole the show as he decided to announce that he will leave FC Barcelona and make way for another manager in the summer. The announcement came just minutes after the side secured an easy 6-1 victory over Sporting Gijon through six different scorers, thanks to a header from Lionel Messi, an own goal by Juan Rodriguez Martinez, and strikes from Luis Suarez, Paco Alcacer, Neymar and Ivan Rakitic. Castro’s strike for the struggling side gave them hope in the first half, but the power and quality of Barcelona was too much and put them top of the league for the first time since week two of the season.
That was also in part down to Las Palmas’ shock draw at the Bernabeu in a game in which Real Madrid were forced to fight back from two goals down to earn a point. Alvaro Morata recorded a hat-trick of offside goals but it was Isco who opened the scoring with a calm finish only 85 seconds before Tana equalised. A red card for Gareth Bale for lashing out at Jonathan Viera turned the tide and it was Viera who capitalised to fire past Keylor Navas after a Sergio Ramos handball saw the Canary Islands team awarded a penalty. Las Palmas failed to collect even a point in February but looked like they could have earned a first ever win at the Bernabeu when Kevin-Prince Boateng rounded Navas to add a third on the hour mark. It took until the 86th minute for Madrid to be awarded a penalty for Cristiano Ronaldo to draw one back and then add an equaliser in the 89th minute in a thrilling game which means that Zidane’s side must settle for second place with one game in hand.
Sevilla too kept up the pressure on the current Champions League holders with a narrow victory at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan between two coaches who could take over from Enrique as Jorge Sampaoli got the better of Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic Bilbao. Vicente Iborra’s strike made the difference between the two sides to make it ten away games without a win for the Basque side.
More importantly, Fernando Torres is expected to make a full recovery with damage far less than was feared after a sickening collision saw him unconscious on the pitch with a number of his teammates in tears. The former Liverpool and Chelsea striker was knocked out when challenging for a header before a nasty landing but has now been released from hospital. That distracted los Colchoneros from what was another disappointing result as even Antoine Griezmann’s wonder strike was not enough to overcome Florin Andone’s early effort, aided by a rare Jan Oblak mistake in goal.
Elsewhere in the race for European football, Villarreal took advantage of many of their competitors facing off against each other. A 4-1 win was pretty much as expected for the Yellow Submarine, whilst Eibar drew back level with an injury-time equaliser in a 2-2 draw in their Basque derby against Real Sociedad, with Juanmi controversially sent off after being booked for showing a message of support on his shirt to someone suffering from leukemia. Celta Vigo also had a man sent off as they were held by Espanyol in a tie which saw all four goals scored in just 11 minutes with the Barcelona club unable to capitalise on Andreu Fontas’ red card just before the break.
At the bottom, Granada secured a crucial win over Alaves, who had two men sent off in injury time. Goals from Mubarak Wakaso and Isaac Cuenca mean that a 2-1 win was enough to move the relegation survival experts to just one point behind Deportivo A Coruna after they collected a draw against Atleti.
Valencia also took a step towards safety as they overcame Leganes only days after they thrashed Deportivo A Coruna by four goals to nil as Eliaquim Mangala found the net for Los Che with his first goal since joining the club on loan from Manchester City. Malaga though look increasingly in trouble as they were beaten by Real Betis to fall to 15th in the league and only seven points clear of the relegation zone and 14 games without a win in all competitions.
Here are the midweek results in full:
Real Sociedad 2-2 Eibar
Malaga 1-2 Real Betis
Valencia 1-0 Leganes
Osasuna 1-4 Villarreal
Barcelona 6-1 Sporting Gijon
Celta Vigo 2-2 Espanyol
Real Madrid 3-3 Las Palmas
Granada 2-1 Alaves
Deportivo A Coruna 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Sevilla 1-0 Athletic Bilbao
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