La Liga Matchday 5 - Lionel Messi injured in big clash; Valencia sack Ayestaran
In the most eye catching fixture of the round, Atletico Madrid travelled to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona as Diego Simeone hoped to defeat Luis Enrique for only the second time, having beaten him just once in the first eight clashes between the two top bosses. In a tight tactical game, Ivan Rakitic put the Catalans ahead with a glancing header, only for Angel Correa to equalise in the second half with a move from a quick free-kick. The biggest blow for Barcelona game minutes earlier though, as Lionel Messi was substituted with a groin strain which is expected to keep him out of action for up to four weeks, with the visit of Manchester City in the Champions League set as a possible return date.
Back in Madrid, Real Madrid had the opportunity to break a La Liga record set by Pep Guardiola with his incredible 2010/11 Barcelona side. After 16 consecutive victories, there was only one more win necessary to break the record up against Villarreal, but the Yellow Submarine refused to give in. Sergio Ramos’ handball in the box allowed Bruno Soriano to score a cheeky Panenka penalty on the stroke of half time to give Fran Escriba’s men the lead, with the captain making up for his error just minutes into the second half as he drew the scores back level with a powerful header. Despite incredible pressure, the side in yellow held firm and kept the scores even until the final whistle.
Another side in yellow who have enjoyed a fine start to the campaign are UD Las Palmas, who won three of their first four fixtures, but they fell to a heavy defeat on the north coast against Real Sociedad. The sending off of former Portsmouth midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng after 21 minutes made it hard work for the Canary Islands side, but David Moyes’ former club saw the game out to win 4-1 with Las Palmas looking a shadow of their normal selves.
Valencia also made the expected step of sacking manager Pako Ayestaran before facing Alaves, but caretaker manager Voro made enough changes to earn the club’s first win of the season at Mestalla as Dani Parejo scored a late penalty to seal the victory after a fortunate own goal put them ahead in the first half only for Gaizka Toquero to level things up in injury time of the first period. Names such as Roberto Mancini, Andre Villas Boas and Marcelino have all now been linked with the poison chalice that is the manager’s job in Valencia.
There was also a fiesty, if dull, midweek derby as Sevilla took on Real Betis for the first time this campaign in a tie which left former Sunderland manager Gus Poyet fuming. Gabriel Mercado put Jorge Sampaoli’s outfit ahead in a game which saw nine yellow cards, only for Alex Alegria to equalise minutes later. Or at least, that’s what should have happened. Instead, Alegria’s goal was wrongly ruled out for offside, with two or three yards between Alegria and the last man, leading to a furious press conference rant from Gus Poyet at the final whistle, in which he exclaimed that he was fed up of poor refereeing decisions costing his side.The result sees Sevilla move to second, benefitting from the draw in the clash between Barcelona and Atletico.
RCD Espanyol joined Valencia in picking up their first win of the season, though they inflicted it on newly promoted Osasuna, who are now rooted bottom of La Liga. Gerard Moreno put himself level with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez as one of the league’s top scorers thanks to his winning strike in a game where Osasuna deserved more having dominated possession and had more shots on goal. However, it was Quique Sanchez Flores whose side were more clinical and return to Barcelona with three points in the bag for the first time under his reign.
Celta Vigo also picked up their first win of the campaign at the expense of Sporting Gijon, with two late penalties proving decisive. With Celta one goal ahead going into the final ten minutes, a penalty allowed Sporting to level the tie, only for former Liverpool striker Iago Aspas to put his side back into the lead with three minutes left to play. The results sees Celta move out of the relegation zone as they have now gone two games unbeaten after losing the first three matches of the season.
There was no such luck however for southern side Granada, who are yet to taste victory under former Rayo Vallecano manager Paco Jemez. Athletic Bilbao took advantage with Raul Garcia and Manchester City target Aymeric Laporte on target for the Basques as Ernesto Valverde’s team revive their hopes of Champions League football after continuing to improve and impress.
Also in the south of Spain, Malaga came from behind to win 2-1 up against Eibar, with Barcelona youth product Sandro scoring a wonderful goal to pull the scores level before Youssef En-Nesyri secured the three points with Ivan Camacho impressing for Malaga as they bounced back from two consecutive defeats.
Possibly the only side smaller than Eibar in La Liga is suburbian Madrid club Leganes, who also came from behind to defeat giants Deportivo A Coruna, having been thrashed by Barcelona last weekend. Leganes have impressed so far this campaign, particularly for their defensive solidity, resisting the force of Depor who are now without a win since the opening day.
With all three of La Liga’s biggest clubs dropping points on Matchday 5, for the first time this season in the case of Real Madrid, it has heaped the pressure on all three as the likes of Sevilla apply pressure. Barcelona now face a tricky spell without Lionel Messi, and already two points, may fear for their chances of retaining their league title already so early on into the season.
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