La Liga: Matchday Three - Real Madrid march on as Barcelona beaten at home
Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar returned to La Liga action this weekend as matchday three kicked off with Canary Island outfit Las Palmas the surprise league leaders ahead of the two Clasico clubs. It was the Euro 2016 winner Ronaldo who would enjoy the weekend the most though, with Neymar suffering a frustrating defeat in a weakened Barcelona line-up.
Newly promoted Alaves had already taken points from Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon this season, but Luis Enrique opted to leave stars like Lionel Messi, Andres and Luis Suarez on the bench, whilst others, such as Gerard Pique, were left out of the squad entirely to keep them fresh. It didn’t go to plan though as Deyverson gave the Basque club the lead just before half-time, and Ibai Gomez wrote himself into the club’s history with the winning strike after a Jeremy Mathieu equaliser.
Cristiano had a more enjoyable return, scoring just six minutes into his first start of the season in a 5-2 victory over another newly promoted side, Osasuna. It was no easy task, with Osasuna scoring two and missing a penalty despite ending the game with ten men, but Madrid had already marched to a five goal lead thanks to goals from Ronaldo, Danilo, Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Luka Modric. Zinedine Zidane was pleased with attacking threat on show from all over the pitch, and Los Merengues will not sit top of the league with an early lead over their two biggest rivals.
Atletico Madrid knew that they could not afford to slip up again after two draws in the first two fixtures, despite being so early on in the season, and they roared back to life with a 4-0 victory over Celta Vigo. A brace from Antoine Griezmann ensured that Atleti stay in touch with the early pacesetters in the league, as Diego Simeone was as passionate as ever on the touchline, at one point even holding his opposite number, Eduardo Berizzo, by the throat as tensions flared on the touchline.
In an early season surprise top of the table clash, UD Las Palmas travelled to Sevilla to face Jorge Sampaoli’s side in an exciting and controversial game, which saw an 89th minute equaliser and 94th minute winner from 20-year-old Carlos Fernandez, a local boy making his debut for the club. In a heated affair, referee Juan Martinez Munuera came in for criticism for a questionable penalty call and red card and then playing an additional minute on the indicated injury time.
Another one of La Liga’s top outfits resumed normal service with their first win of the season as Villarreal defeated Malaga 2-0 on the south coast of Spain thanks to efforts from Jaume Costa and Nicola Sansone, putting an end to much of the pre-season optimism which surrounded former Spurs boss Juande Ramos’ team.
Valencia’s struggles continued this weekend as they welcomed another former Premier League boss as Gus Poyet secured his first win as Real Betis boss in an exciting game at the Mestalla. At 2-0 down and having had Enzo Pérez sent off, los Che had plenty of reasons to be pessimistic, but two goals in three minutes from Rodrigo Moreno and debutant Ezequiel Garay brought the score level late on, only for Rubén Castro to score a last ditch winner late into injury time to take the points back to Seville.
Deportivo faced their first fixture without talismanic striker Lucas Pérez following his move to the Emirates as they welcomed Athletic Bilbao, who lost their opening two games of the season. Raul Garcia’s strike was enough to pick up the first points of the season for the Basque team, and Depor suffered as they lost Joselu to injury with the 26-year-old expected to step up and replace the new Arsenal forward.
There was also a hard fought draw on the north coast in San Sebastián as Espanyol surrendered their lead against Real Sociedad in the Anoeta, before Javi Fuego picked up two yellow cards in four minutes to see red in injury time, leaving Quique Sanchez Flores still searching for his first win as boss of the Catalan outfit after heavy investment in the playing squad this summer.
Newly promoted Leganes, one of La Liga’s smallest ever clubs, fell to their first defeat just along the coast as they travelled to Sporting Gijon on Sunday lunchtime, with Sporting mounting a two goal lead before half time to remain unbeaten and move them up to third in the league as they maintain an impressive run of form.
Another of the league’s smallest ever teams is Eibar, whose historic rise from the third division has shocked much of Spain. The Basque team faced a tough challenge as they travelled to Granada and that was made even more difficult when Aber Riesgo saw red in goal after just half an hour, but Sergi Enrich’s effort with the last kick of the game was enough to win the three points with a 2-1 victory.
This weekend could prove to be pivotal come the end of the season as Barcelona dropped points unexpectedly whilst Real Madrid continued their fine run of recent form. Whilst it is worth remembering the comparisons to Barça’s 2-0 defeat to newly promoted Hercules on match day three of 2010/11, where they went on to win La Liga and the Champions League, there are causes for concerns for Luis Enrique whilst the Madrid outfit look increasingly like the favourites for the title.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Serg Hoholok.
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