Zaragoza seem to be over their poor start to the season, and they move safely up to mid-table after a 0-2 win at Rayo Vallecano on Monday night. The Maños had the better of the opening minutes, Amat clearing off the line from Montañés with Cobeño beaten, and the keeper having to save from Postiga before Movilla intercepted a loose ball in the area and set up Zuculini to score. Leo Baptistao headed over the bar and Trashorras fired a shot just wide either side of half time, but Apoño made it two on the hour mark, drilling a low shot past Cobeño after Postiga and Zuculini played a long throw across the edge of the area. Roberto had to tip a dangerous shot from Tito over the bar late on to ensure his first clean sheet of the season, but Postiga could have added to the scoreline near the end had Cobeño not kept out his late volley. A good win for Manolo Jiménez and his team, and they move level with their hosts in the rankings. (10.12.12)
Leo Messi shrugged off his knee injury to help Barcelona to a 1-2 victory against Betis on Saturday evening. After being stretchered off in the midweek Champions League game, it looked as if he would be out for some time, but in the end the injury was not as serious as first though, and Tito Vilanova was able to include him in the starting line-up. The Argentinian superstar only needed two goals to beat Gerd Müller's all-time record of 85 goals in a calendar year, and with less than half an hour on the clock he had already done it, picking up Iniesta's short pass to run across three defenders and fire an angled shot back past Adrian for the first, and beating the keeper for the second time after latching on to Iniesta's back-heel pass. Iniesta came close to scoring himself in between with a lob which Adrián just managed to push over the top, and Xavi brought another good save out of the keeper a few minutes later. After beating Real Madrid though in their last home match, Betis were not going to give up easily, and shortly before half time they got back in it when Rubén Castro ran on to Vadillo's through ball to beat Valdés. And after the restart the Andalusians hit the woodwork no less than three times, a cross from Salva Sevilla which Valdés dropped at the feet of Castro, a back header from Mascherano following a corner which came back off the post to the keeper, and a volley from Pozuela against the upright. Barça had their chances as well however to increase the lead, Pedro shooting at Adrián when free on goal, and the keeper turning a shot from Messi against the post, Jordi Alba firing the rebound against the bar from two metres out. Another three points for Vilanova's steamroller in the end though, and despite their best efforts Betis drop out of the Champions League spots to fifth.
Earlier in the evening though Falcao did something that even Messi hasn't achieved in his career, score five goals in one league match. The Atlético Madrid striker tore Deportivo apart after Diego Costa had opened the way, setting up a 6-0 victory which keeps Simeone's side within six points of Barça in the table. The Galicians did actually have the better of the opening minutes however, with Bruno Gama in particularly going close, and after Costa had headed in Koke's corner, Valerón headed against the upright. But after that it was the Falcao show, the Colombian forward picking up Koke's pass to make it two, and then collecting Turan's quick throw-in before thrashing a shot past Aranzubia. The second half started with Falcao completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot after Roderick tripped him up inside the area, and after that he went on to score two more, throwing himself forward to head the ball over the line after Aranzubia had pushed up a shot from Turan, and saving the best for last when he cut back from the by-line before turning a shot past the desperate keeper. Five of the best, and although Messi did achieve that in the Champions League last season, nobody has done that in La Liga since Real Madrid's Morientes clocked up a "manita" against Las Palmas some ten years ago.
Depor are now bottom of the table, albeit just two points behind seventeenth placed Mallorca, who were beaten 4-0 by Levante in the opening game of the day. The Balearic islanders had only picked up two points from their last nine games, and they were outclassed again in the first half, with David Navarro having a strike ruled out for offside and Martins in particular causing problems for Aouate in the visiting goal. Mallorca's first shot at goal didn't come until ten minutes before the break, Munúa punching away a long shot from Javi Márquez, but soon afterwards Martins ran on to El-Zhar's long ball out of defence to battle his way past Geromel and score. That opened the floodgates, and Juan Ignacio Martínez's side scored three more in the first quarter of an hour of the second half, with Navarro heading his team's second from a Michel corner. Martins put Rubén García through soon afterwards for the youngster to score his first goal for the senior side, and the Nigerian striker also had a hand in the fourth, winning the ball back inside the penalty area and passing across for Navarro to set up Iborra. The victory takes Levante back up to sixth, but leaves Mallorca coach Joaquín Caparrós facing an uncertain future.
Athletic Bilbao climb away from the danger zone though after a narrow 1-0 win over Celta. Bielsa's side had not won at home in a month, and they could have fallen behind early on when Iago Aspas went close a couple of times. However with just over half an hour gone Amorebieta won the ball back in midfield, and Ibai Gómez crossed in for Aduríz to head past Javi Varas. Ramalho blasted a shot over the top soon afterwards, but before the half time whistle Augusto Fernández let Iraizoz off the hook after picking up a hurried clearance from the keeper. After the break Aduríz got the ball in the net again only to be pulled up for a borderline offside, and Susaeta and Amorebieta failed to find the target as Athletic looked to add to their lead. However they were pushed back in to their own half for the last twenty minutes, and De Lucas, Oubiña and Krohn-Dehli all had chances to save a point for the Galicians late on. (09.12.12)
Real Madrid closed the gap on leaders Barcelona to eight points pending their game on Sunday after a 2-3 victory at Valladolid on Saturday evening. They had to come from behind twice to do so though, Manucho opening the scoring early on for the locals after Marc Valiente played Omar's corner back in to the goalmouth. Ronaldo and Callejón had gone close before that though, and a few minutes later Valiente lost his footing on the slippery surface, and Callejón took advantage to set up Benzema for the equaliser. Once again though the locals went back in front following a corner, Manucho getting above his markers to head Ebert's kick past Casillas, and once again Madrid came back, Ronaldo and Benzema both coming up against Dani Hernández before a clever back-heel from Benzema allowed Özil to force a shot under the keeper. After the restart Casillas did well to keep out Oscar, and Sergio Ramos got the ball in the net only to be pulled up for a non-existent offside. Mourinho needed a win though, and he took off his two fullbacks to bring on Di María and Modric, a brave move which finally paid off when Özil curled an impressive free kick in off the crossbar. Madrid were out of jail, and the pressure is back on Barcelona, who visit the tricky Betis on Sunday.
Málaga are back up to fourth after a resounding 4-0 win over neighbours Granada, who themselves stay in the bottom three as a result. The visitors put up a good fight though, Ighalo going close twice early on and Caballero having to be at his best to keep out a point blank header from Diakhaté. A couple of minutes either side of the half hour mark though the locals went two up, Joaquín picking up Saviola's pass and running on to beat Toño, and after Gámez crashed a shot against the bar, Saviola beating the keeper for a second time after collecting a pass from Portillo. Caballero had to make two more top class saves from Ighalo and Torje though before the break, Iriney firing the rebound from the first one wide with the goal at his mercy, and Ighalo hit the post after the restart. Toño though was also under the cosh, and with a quarter of an hour to go Camacho got on the end of Joaquín's wide free kick to head home a third. Ten minutes later Santa Cruz showed good control to net the fourth, and Pellegrini had his revenge on Anquela, whose Alcorcón side cost the Chilean coach his job at Real Madrid in that famous cup tie from a few years ago. Anquela is sweating that history doesn't repeat itself completely!
Getafe will be spending Saturday night in sixth place, just two points off the Champions League places, after they drew 1-1 at Real Sociedad. Apart from the last five minutes it was a disappointing match though, neither side troubling the opposite keeper until ten minutes before the break, when Moyà turned Chory Castro's header for a corner, and Bravo pushed a long shot from Abdel Barrada around the post. After the restart Ifrán and Zurutuza put chances wide, and Lafita poked a shot on to the crossbar from close up. However things came alive near the end when Lafita ran in to head Gavilán's long cross down past the keeper, and Real responded in injury time when Carlos Martínez got on the end of De la Bella's centre to head home the equaliser from the far post. The draw keeps the Basque side in eighth spot, still two points behind the Madrid based side in the table.
Valencia are now level with Real after they won 0-1 at Osasuna in the last game of the evening, a great start for new coach Ernesto Valverde in his first match in charge after taking over this week from Pellegrino. The Ches had not won away from home all season in the league, and their track record in Pamplona was also poor, with only one win in their last eight visits. The locals were looking to build on their run of four matches without defeat after a shaky start to the season, and Raoul Loe went close early on. The visitors replied with efforts from Soldado, Tino Costa and Feghouli shortly before the break, but soon after the restart make-shift left back Guardado did well to clear an Arribas header off the line with the keeper beaten. A few minutes later Soldado volleyed home what was to prove the winner after Piatti's cross came back off the far post, and although Oier put a good chance over the top and Lamah brought a good save out of Diego Alves, local keeper Andrés had to be on his toes to prevent the Spanish international striker from adding to the lead near the end. (08.12.12)
This week's Friday night game ended with a 2-2 draw between Espanyol and Sevilla, a result which left the home side languishing in the bottom three, and the visitors still four points outside of the European spots. Local keeper Cristian Alvarez was busy right from the start saving from Navas and Spahic, but soon afterwards Verdú put the Catalans ahead from the penalty spot after he was pushed over by Fernando Navarro. Referee Muñiz Fernández upset both sides later in the first half, awarding a dubious penalty at the other end which Rakitic converted after Kondogbia fell under a challenge by "the masked man" Christian Stuani, and then sending off Reyes for a ridiculous second yellow card after he took a free kick which the referee claimed he had not allowed to go ahead (even though he had previously blown his whistle to start play). With just under an hour on the clock new coach Javier Aguirre decided to bring on Simao, and within a minute the Portuguese winger restored the lead for the locals with a header from a Wakaso corner. Alvarez had to make a couple of good saves from Rakitic and Manu as Sevilla pushed forward, but just when it looked as if the long suffering fans were about to see their first home win for seven weeks, Negredo popped up to head the equaliser from Coke's cross. (08.12.12)