La Liga Wrap Up: James and Bale get their braces on, Eibar take Basque bragging rights

Real Madrid made amends for their scoreless draw last week by thrashing Real Betis, Barcelona overcame a determined Malaga, Atleti defeated Sevilla and Eibar claimed a derby win over Athletic Bilbao. Most curiously though, for the second week running, neither Messi nor Ronaldo found the back of the net. It’s all in our La Liga Wrap Up.

Real Madrid got their season back on track with a thumping 5-0 win over promoted Real Betis in a match Rafa Benitez’s side dominated from start to finish.

It was a lightning start for Los Blancos, with James’ curling ball from the right finding Gareth Bale on the run who headed home to give the home side the lead at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Betis goal remained under fire throughout the first half, with Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo forcing former teammate Antonio Adan into several saves before James Rodriguez made an impact again shortly before the interval. With a free-kick from a very tight angle on the right-hand side, the Colombian fired the ball into the net via the far post to double the lead. Adan, and everyone most likely, was expecting the ball to be crossed, but such was the venom of the shot that even at such a difficult angle it was essentially unstoppable.

Some intricate one-touch play around the edge of the area – a characteristic of Benitez sides that is often forgotten – saw Real claim a third two minutes after the break in what will be an early contender for the goal of the season.

Danilo, to Bale, to James, to Danilo, to James, to Bale, to Benzema, to the back of the net.

The free flowing movement that followed a 21-pass sequence saw the Welshman with enough space on the right-hand side of the box to send a right-footed cross into the area that was met by the head of Benzema to make it 3-0. It was the positional interchanging that we saw in pre-season, and it was absolutely beautiful.

Three minutes later Toni Kroos sent Marcelo free down the left and his pull back was cut out by the Betis defence, but the attempted clearance only went as far as Kroos on the edge of the area, whose scuffed shot fell into the path of James. The Real no. 10’s first touch was loose, but he improvised with a spectacular overhead kick from six yards out to grab his second of the game.

Ronaldo struggled to influence the game, often gesticulating towards his teammates when the pass didn’t come, and a determined Adan ensured he remained frustrated for the full 90 minutes capping a fairly decent performance – even when he conceded five.

Keylor Navas saved a penalty on the hour mark before Bale added a fifth with a thunderous strike that went in off the inside of the post from 30 yards in the 89th minute.

 

A vintage performance from Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid saw them overcome Sevilla 3-0 in a pulsating, fiery encounter at the Sanchez Pizjuan. The match began with both sides carving chances but goalkeepers Jan Oblak and Beto were on hand to keep both sides at bay.

Antoine Griezmann was wrestled to the ground just inside the area, but deemed a fair challenge the Frenchman continued to play on despite being on the deck, and he managed to find Koke to prod home from 12 yards 10 minutes before half-time.

Sevilla started the second half strongest but Atleti stood defiant, using everything in their locker to keep the home side out. They managed to weather the storm, and with 11 minutes remaining Gabi’s long-range strike took a deflection on its way in, before new signing Jackson Martinez put the match beyond all doubt. Following some link up play with Griezmann – who was denied a second by the post in stoppage time – the Colombian’s curled shot left Beto with no chance and made it 3-0 to Los Colchoneros, who are yet to concede this season.

Atleti celebrate their third goal with manager Diego Simeone.
Atleti celebrate their third goal with manager Diego Simeone.

The Ipurua in Eibar hosted the first Basque Derby of the season, as SD Eibar welcomed Athletic Bilbao.

The home side came flying out of the blocks in the first-half and the visitors struggled to cope with the frenzied pressure of Los Armeros. Aymeric Laporte lost the ball on the edge of his own area and brought down Sergi Enrich on 33 minutes which saw Eibar take a deserved lead from the penalty spot through Saul Berjon. Adrian Gonzalez made it 2-0 on the hour thanks to some poor goalkeeping from Gorka Iraizoz, who had had a very good game up until that point.

Overall it was a very lethargic performance from Athletic, who of course had played on Thursday night in a Europa League qualifier against Zilina, and it means Eibar stay top after two rounds. Both sides have had similar starts to last season’s campaign, and it’s a Basque book-end with Athletic at the bottom of the table.

Barcelona hosted Malaga at the Camp Nou as the home side paraded their European Super Cup and Leo Messi his UEFA Best Player award.

Barcelona looked to assert their dominance early but faced a stubborn Malaga defence who matched their opponents for the best part of the match. Luis Suarez had a header ruled out for a push on Angeleri as the Catalans failed to make the pressure count in the opening 45, and they nearly went a goal down before the break.

Malaga’s Juankar (yep, unfortunate name) nearly opened the scoring with an audacious effort from 60 yards, with Claudio Bravo stranded 25 yards from goal, but his long-range effort landed on the roof of the net.

Mascherano then hit the bar towards the end of a first half that frustrated the home side as they struggled to find a way through and had two borderline penalty shouts turned down by the referee.

The second half carried on in a similar fashion, Carlos Kameni saving well from Messi after being teed up by Neymar on his return to the starting XI. Kameni made several further saves to keep his side in the match but Barcelona’s relentless pressure eventually told, with Kameni’s punch dropping to Thomas Vermaelen of all people, who rifled home on the volley from just inside the box on 73 minutes.

And that was how it stayed, and for the first time since 2007 Messi hasn’t scored in the opening two rounds of La Liga.

In a contest between two of the dominant forces in Spanish football in the early 2000s, Valencia and Deportivo La Coruña played out a 1-1 draw at the Mestalla.

A surprisingly strong first half from Galicians in one of the most difficult away venues in Spain saw them take the lead. Juanfran nicked the ball on halfway and played in Lucas Perez, who drove at the back line and curled in a left-footed strike from the edge of the box that left Maty Ryan with no chance. Just before half-time Valencia leveled, however, as a corner was flicked on by Mina Lorenzo to an unmarked Alvaro Negredo at the far post whose simple finish drew Los Che level.

Valencia overran their unfancied opponents in the second-half and had a number of opportunities to snatch the points but they had to settle for a share of the spoils thanks to some solid goalkeeping from German Lux and some wasteful finishing. Overall it will be seen as points dropped for Nuno’s men – who had Barragan sent off for two bookable offences – but an impressive result for Depor, who will be hoping to push towards a top-half finish after avoiding relegation last season on their return to the Primera.

Asier Illarramendi made his return to Anoeta as he made his second debut for Real Sociedad as they drew 0-0 with Sporting Gijon. No goals scored but none conceded for the new boys after two very tough opening fixtures.

Roberto Soldado starred for the Submarino Amarillo as Villarreal came back from 1-0 down to defeat Espanyol 3-1. The former Tottenham and Valencia man scored once and laid on two assists for his teammates in an all-around performance for the striker.

Elsewhere, Celta Vigo defeated Rayo Vallecano (who were playing in their rainbow kit) 3-0 after Toño was sent off for a foul in the area in the opening ten minutes, Gran Canaria hosted its first La Liga match in a long time when Las Palmas hosted a 0-0 draw against a very defensive Levante side, and Getafe lost 2-1 at home to Granada.

And for the second week running we’ve played a round of Spanish football without Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo scoring. It’s the first time since they’ve both been in Spain that two rounds of Spanish football have been played with neither finding the back of the net. Chances are it won’t be three from three when we return following the international break.

Results in full: Villarreal 3-1 Espanyol; Real Sociedad 0-0 Sporting Gijon; Barcelona 1-0 Malaga; Celta Vigo 3-0 Rayo Vallecano; Real Madrid 5-0 Real Betis; Eibar 2-0 Athletic Bilbao; Valencia 1-1 Deportivo La Coruña; Sevilla 0-3 Atletico Madrid; Las Palmas 0-0 Levante; Getafe 1-2 Granada.

About Mark Houston 86 Articles
Mark is an editor of The Blog FC and has also contributed to other sport and music sites. He predominantly writes about La Liga but also follows Europe's other top leagues and the local A-League. There's a special place in his heart for bearded deep-lying playmakers and he's a proud member of the Goalkeepers Union.