Levante are top of the table for the first time in their 102 year history after a 0-3 victory over neighbours Villarreal on Sunday night, the Valencia based side climbing above the mighty Real Madrid and Barcelona after their win. The two teams came in to the match with differing fortunes, the locals having all but been knocked out of the Champions League midweek, and the visitors with five wins in a row under their belts. And the difference in form shined through early on, Barkero firing a free kick just over before Juanlu struck a first time volley past Diego López from Valdo's high cross. Koné and Valdo went close soon afterwards, and with the first half coming to a finish Juanlu got on the end of Koné's cross to score his second of the night. Up to that point only Rossi had tested Munúa, and the game was virtually over when Koné shrugged off a challenge from Gonzalo before poking the third past the keeper early in the second half. Substitute Marco Rubén did have a couple of efforts on target later on, and also had a penalty appeal turned down, but by then there were few local fans in the ground to watch it. Coach Juan Carlos Garrido needs to turn this around quickly if he is to stay in his job, and next up Real Madrid!
Levante's city neighbours Valencia stay in fifth spot after a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao earlier in the evening. Topal and Canales went close early on, but after that the visitors were on top, with Susaeta having a goal disallowed for a non-existent offside and Llorente hitting the post. Jonas intercepted a bad clearance by Iraizoz and fired back a shot against the post at the other end before the break, and then shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy soon after the restart. Muniain also put an easy chance wide, but a few minutes later he made up for it, cutting in from the wing to beat Guaita from the edge of the area. It looked like being the winner until two minutes from the end, when Banega sent Soldado away for him to round Iraizoz and score. A point each, but bad news for both coaches, with serious knee injuries for Canales and Gurpegui.
Atlético Madrid were also held to a 1-1 draw by Mallorca, and Manzano's side slip to ninth having not won now in six games in all competitions. The visitors took the lead in only the second minute, Hemed converting his fourth penalty in three games after the Tissone's cross hit Silvio's arm at close range. Atlético felt they should have had a penalty themselves when the ball hit Bigas under similar circumstances, but they were eventually awarded a spot kick close to half time when Ramis pushed over Falcao, the striker firing the ball home to level the scores. It was their first goal in five games, but they were unable to add to their tally after that, Adrián putting a good chance wide and Reyes bringing a good save out of Aouate with a long shot. Another disappointment, and there were whistles from the fans as the players left the pitch at the end.
Osasuna are now level with Atlético after a 3-0 victory over Zaragoza, their first win in six games. All the goals came in the first half hour, Raúl García starting things off after Ibrahima set him up in the seventeenth minute. Nino made it two a few minutes later after Raúl García headed on a long Marc Bertrán throw in, and Nekounam headed the third past Roberto from Bertrán's long cross. After the restart the pressure continued from the locals, and Roberto had to make saves from Ibrahima, Nino and Cejudo to prevent the scoreline from increasing. A poor result for Zaragoza, who only troubled Andrés late on when substitute Juan Carlos came on, and they drop a point below their opponents in the table.
The Sunday programme started with the mid-day kick off between Betis and Rayo Vallecano, the visitors winning 0-2 to move four points clear of the drop zone. Both sides had chances in a lively first half, Rubén Castro going close a couple of times and Casto saving well from Michu and Arribas. After the restart a header from Salva Sevilla bounced up on to the crossbar and Cobeño had to save from Sevilla and Montero, and Casto responded with another stop from Michu. With twelve minutes to go though Nacho could only head up a long cross, and Lass nipped in to lob over the head of the keeper. And with two minutes to go Coke added a second from the penalty spot after Mario brought him down in the area. A fourth defeat in a row for Betis, and their good start to the season is now distant history.
Rayo move above Real Sociedad and Getafe, who could only draw 0-0 later in the afternoon. Neither side had been performing well recently, the locals not having won in over a month and the visitors just a point above the relegation spots. Real had the better of the first half, with Griezmann forcing Moyà in to a good save and Agirretxe and Iñigo Martínez just failing to hit the target. After the interval though Bravo had to be at his best to save from Miku, and Diego Castro had a goal disallowed for a borderline offside. Montanier brought on Llorente and Vela, both of whom were returning from injury, and Llorente fired a shot over the top soon after coming on. But the closest anyone came to scoring was when Pedro León fired in a long shot in the dying minutes, the ball bouncing off the crossbar with the keeper beaten. A point apiece in the end, and both have to improve if they are to avoid problems later in the season. (23.10.11)
Real Madrid are in top spot tonight after a 0-4 victory at Málaga. All the goals came before the break, with Higuaín starting things off after Di María put him through in the tenth minute. And after that Cristiano Ronaldo helping himself to a hat-trick in a fifteen minute period of attacking football, the first with a shot past Rubén after Di María crossed in from the right. Five minutes later Ronaldo picked up a short pass from Xabi Alonso and made himself space to beat Rubén again, and with eight minutes to go to the break he made it four with an acrobatic leap to poke the ball past the keeper with the sole of his foot after Ramos headed back a Di María corner. Málaga themselves had had their chances though, and after the restart they dominated play as Madrid sat back to defend their lead. But although Joaquín and Seba Fernández hit the bar, they were unable to find the goal they needed to at least give their fans something to cheer about.
Madrid move a point above Barcelona, who were held to a 0-0 draw in the Nou Camp by Sevilla in the last match on Saturday. In one of the most thrilling (and one-sided) scoreless draws in a long time, Javi Varas and his back four put up a numantine defence to keep their unbeaten record intact. The visiting keeper made a series of fist class saves from Iniesta, Villa and a deflected effort from Messi before the break, and Iniesta, Messi and his own defender Escudé after the restart. Valdés, who beat his own record of games without letting in a goal, only had a save or two to make from Jesús Navas early on, but otherwise he was just another spectator. Things boiled up though in the second minute of injury time, when referee Iturralde González awarded a penalty to the locals after Fazio brought down Iniesta. In the ensuing fracas, Kanouté and Navarro were sent off, but Varas kept his cool to save Messi's spot kick. This was always going to be his night.
Earlier in the evening Sporting Gijón beat Granada 2-0 to clock up their first win of the season. The Asturians started strongly, André Castro and Barral bringing good saves out of Roberto before the two combined for Barral to cut past Fran Rico and fire a shot inside the keeper's near post. Geijo hit the post at the other end in reply, but with five minutes to go to the break Roberto misread a cross from Lora, the ball coming off Iñigo López and falling kindly for Castro to score in to the empty net. Juan Pablo had to keep out Uche and Dani Benítez either side of half time, and Geijo rolled a shot just past the post on the hour mark. But Granada never really looked like scoring, and with only two goals to their name from the first eight games they ended the day still down in the relegation spots.
The win takes Sporting off the bottom of the table thanks to a better goal difference than Racing Santander, who lost 0-1 to Espanyol. The Catalans clocked up their first away win in nine months last weekend, and they had the better of the first half, with Romaric and Javi Márquez testing Toño and Sergio García going close a couple of times. Stuani headed over shortly before the break though, and either side of half time Diop brought a good save out of Cristian Alvarez and then fired a free kick against the bar. With an hour on the clock however Sergio García waited until a high cross from Verdú bounced past the defenders before firing a low shot past the keeper, and Alvaro Vázquez and Verdú could have extended the lead later on with a bit more luck. Pochettino's side ended the day in eighth spot, just a point outside of the European places. (22.10.11)