La Liga Wrap Up: Big 3 face stern tests on matchday two

Barcelona and Atletico were made to sweat, winning by a solitary goal against Villarreal and Eibar respectively, whereas Madrid collapsed to lose 4-2 to Real Sociedad. Elsewhere, Sevilla and Valencia notched up important wins to kickstart their campaigns in the race for fourth.

The biggest shock of the weekend was La Liga favourites Real Madrid succumbing to a 4-2 loss at the hands of Real Sociedad. Deciding to rest Ronaldo, and with Di Maria and Xabi Alonso leaving the club this week, it was a slightly different side which turned up to the Anoeta, with a front 6 of Modric, Kroos, Isco, James, Bale and Benzema.

Real stormed out of the blocks with goals to Ramos and Bale giving them an early 2-0 lead. However, the balance of the team was all wrong, with no leader or anchor to link the defence to the attack and keep the structure. Their flashy pink away strip failed to inspire their defence, as they conceded four goals to crosses – two of them coming from corners – and dropped all the points to Real Sociedad, who bounced back after their unexpected loss to Eibar last week.

While still early days, this is a result that will test the fans’ patience with the club’s hierarcy after assembling the most expensive side of all time. Questions will be asked of Ancelotti – but it might be more poignant to ask them of club president Florentino Perez. With Xabi Alonso now departed, and a defensive midfielder seemingly needed to balance the side in his absence as Kroos and Modric looked very static playing together, it will be interesting to see whether or not the manager continues with the marquee names or finds a place in the team for Khedira or Illarramendi; although neither may be the answer Los Blancos are looking for.

Time will tell, as Ancelotti spent most of last season getting Modric and Alonso to work together in a midfield three with Di Maria – that has now been thrown out by Perez.  Nevertheless, this was the first time since 2010 that Madrid have conceded 4 times in 1 game.  They’ll need to work on their set pieces, too, and perhaps it’s time for Casillas to be relegated back to the bench.

real-sociedad-4-2-real-madrid

Barcelona endured a scare at Villareal, needing a late goal to claim a 1-0 victory, courtesy of a Sandro Ramirez tap in after being set up by Lionel Messi.  A new look Barcelona struggled to impose themselves, with Xavi, Iniesta and Neymar all on the bench, it gave some gametime to La Masia graduates, with Rafinha and Munir reclaiming their starting roles from matchday one.  A lucky break for Barcelona, as Villareal hit the post more than once.  Another day would have seen a victory for the Yellow Submarine.

Mario Mandzukic was on target for Atleti.
Mario Mandzukic was on target for Atleti.

Atletico hosted new boys Eibar, who had the distinguished honour of being above the reigning champions on the La Liga table after round one.  Simeone was still in the stands, serving the 2nd of his 8-match touchline ban.  Miranda and Mandzukic gave Atletico an early 2-0 lead, but Eibar stuck to their guns, and hit back with a lovely team goal finished well by Abraham into the top corner.  It remained 2-1, but not without a final scare with Moya needed to deny Angel Rodriguez late on.

Atleti were also finally presented with the La Liga trophy, only a good three months or so since they actually won it. Their fans didn’t mind though, and, as expected, lapped up the moment when club captains Gabi, Godin and Garcia lifted the trophy.

Sevilla traveled to Barcelona to take on Espanyol, with a 2-1 win for the visitors. Sevilla looked very comfortable here, putting last week’s disappointing draw against Valencia behind them.  Bacca and Denis Suarez looked very dangerous for the visitors, and a Stuani goal in the second half for Espanyol was nothing more than a consolation.

Valencia beat Malaga 3-0, but the scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story.  Malaga were taking the game to Valencia, and had a string of good chances until Darder managed to get himself sent off for a high challenge, leaving Malaga to defend with 10 men with over an hour left.  Los Che found space everywhere and finished with a fairly comfortable victory, minus the odd scare from the 10 men. Discipline seems to be an issue for the Andalusians, with Malaga receiving three red cards already this season. Surely that sort of trend can’t continue.

Bilbao also recorded a 3-0 win over the struggling Levante.  A fairly routine victory for Bilbao, who were on a high after their midweek win over Napoli, and there might be some nervousness in Levante as they are rooted to the bottom of the table, the only team without any points after two games.

Ander Iturraspe, centre, celebrated his call-up to the national team with a goal.
Ander Iturraspe, centre, celebrated his call-up to the national team with a goal.

Getafe got their first points of the campaign with a 1-0 over Almeria.  Vazquez, unable to score in his loan spell in the Premier League with Swansea, scored in his second match back for Getafe and sealed the 3 points.

Cordoba and Celta Vigo played out a 1-1 draw, earning Cordoba their first point of the season after losing last week to Real Madrid.

Isaac Cuenca, freshly signed from Barcelona, earned Deportivo a 2-2 draw with Rayo Vallecano, with his 93rd minute penalty enough to get them off the bottom of the table and with their first point of the season.

Elsewhere, Elche managed a late, late draw, scoring in added time via Lomban, after Rico gave Granada the lead in the 82nd minute.  With every point crucial as Elche are likely to be in relegation trouble, this point could prove an invaluable goal come May.

Results in full:

Getafe 1-0 Almeria; Valencia 3-0 Malaga; Athletic Bilbao 3-0 Levante; Cordoba 1-1 Celta Vigo; Atletico Madrid 2-1 Eibar; Espanyol 1-2 Sevilla; Villarreal 0-1 Barcelona; Real Sociedad 4-2 Real Madrid; Deportivo La Coruña 2-2 Rayo Vallecano; Elche 1-1 Granada.

About Nick Chernih 22 Articles
An avid football fan, Nick fell in love with the European game long ago and never looked back. One of our dedicated Spanish writers, Nick has been a Barcelona and Chelsea supporter since primary school, and can be recognised by the rings under his eyes on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings after the grueling European time zone takes its toll on his sleeping patterns.