As Atletico Madrid celebrated the 50th, and final, birthday of the Vicente Calderon, they did so in style despite going behind to an early Isaac Cuenca wonderstrike. Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco drew the scores back level not long after and then had his hat-trick by the hour mark. Nico Gaitan came on as a substitute to score his first two goals in Atletico colours since a summer move from Benfica and then Angel Correa and Tiago added efforts of their own in the final five minutes of the game to make it a remarkable 7-1 victory for Diego Simeone’s side, and contribute towards an incredible 44 goals from the ten La Liga games played this weekend.
Seven of those came from the clash between Real Madrid and Real Betis in Seville, though unlike Granada, Gus Poyet’s Betis managed a consolation goal rather than an early lead. Isco was the man of the match for Zinedine Zidane, scoring two incredible finishes, alongside strikes from Raphael Varane, Karim Benzema and Marcelo, with Cristiano Ronaldo adding just his second strike of the season late on to round off the victory as Poyet’s critics mount amid speculation that he could face a challenge to retain his job.
City rivals Sevilla also stepped up their game to secure their first away win since the final day of the 2014/15 season at Leganes, with Samir Nasri inspiring Jorge Sampaoli’s side to score a late winner having thrown away a two goal lead. Pablo Sarabia’s effort gave Sampaoli the three points with five minutes left on the clock after a nightmare two minutes had seen the suburban Madrid team draw back level after Sevilla had shown complete domination for the first hour of the game. Now sitting third in the table, the former Chile manager has had the best start ever for a new manager at the club and will want to build on that to maintain a push on the top three.
Barcelona were also back to their best after a disappointing defeat last time they were involved in La Liga action, with Deportivo on the receiving end of the inevitable lashback. It took substitute Lionel Messi just 145 seconds to score on his return from injury at the Camp Nou, though a brace from Brazilian Rafinha and a Luis Suarez strike was enough to have put the game to bed before half time. Suarez was substituted at half-time to keep legs fresh for the clash against Manchester City on Wednesday, but Luis Enrique’s decision to start the Uruguayan may represent a change of tack from the rotation that we have seen cost the Catalans point so far this season.
There were also two action-packed Basque derbies this weekend, with Athletic Bilbao taking the three points despite going behind against Real Sociedad. David Zurutuza gave La Real the lead but Athletic came out of the blocks quicker after half time, with a superb Iker Muniain strike giving them a leveller before Aritz Aduriz put them ahead after a defensive error by Geronimo Rulli. Inaki Williams later made sure, though Inigo Martinez gave his side a final hope with his headed effort five minutes from time. In an end to end encounter, the final piece of action saw goalkeeper Rulli caught offside with almost the final touch of the game.
Osasuna also secured their best result of the season to date, coming back from a 17 second strike from Gonzalo Escalante of Eibar. Martin Monreal was back in the dugout after a health scare and saw his Osasuna outfit come from behind to lead thanks to a brace from Sergio Leon, only for Sergi Enrich to draw things back level just before the break. Roberto Torres scored what would go on to be the winner on Monday evening with a fine strike on the hour mark and the newly promoted side would be the ones to pick up their first win of the season with a fine defensive display towards the end of the fixture.
Another north coast team in action were Sporting Gijon, who suffered defeat to Cesare Prandelli’s Valencia in his first match in charge. Watford loanee Mario Suarez scored twice for Los Che, either side of a Castro strike for Sporting, to lift Valencia out of the bottom five for the first time this season. Prandelli was asked post-match if he felt he could secure a Champions League position finish this season in typical Spanish media style, but if his first match in charge is anything to go by then there are reasons for Valencia fans to be feeling positive at long last.
Villarreal continue their incredible revival after a slow start to the campaign as Roberto Soriano gave them an early lead to ensure a 5-0 victory over Celta de Vigo, straight off the back of their victory over Barcelona. Cedric Bakambu returned from injury for the Yellow Submarine and scored his first strike of the campaign, with Sergi Gomez’s late sending off only compounding the misery for Eduardo Berizzo and his men after the elation of matchday seven, with Fran Escriba continuing to shock his critics.
Once again, it was Espanyol who were involved in the dud tie of the round, with pressure continuing to mount on former Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores after they drew a blank and secured a goalless draw on the long trip to Las Palmas. That leaves the Barcelona side only out of the relegation zone on goal difference with seven points from eight game despite a busy summer full of transfer activity by the new Chinese owners, and Flores could soon find himself facing the sack for the second time in six months.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Charlie Cunningham.