The Andalusians would have been slightly disappointed not to walk away from the Mestalla with 3 points though on a weekend which also saw an 8 goal thriller at Eibar and Villarreal beaten at home again to add to the woes of Javier Calleja. He was already fighting for his future as boss of the Yellow Submarine and has now somewhat predictably been sacked after a woeful display against Celta Vigo which saw the Galicians race into a 3-0 lead. Meanwhile a shock win for Real Valladolid at Real Sociedad bucked the trend of the early season surprise packages starting to fade away.
Messi Free-Kick Masterclass inspires Barca
— FC Barcelona Fl 🏆 (@FCBarcelonaFl) December 8, 2018
Even as he heads into the latter stages of his career, Leo Messi is still hitting new heights and served a timely reminder of his immense talents in the week he was voted only the world’s 5th best player. On Saturday evening in Cornella, on the outskirts of Barcelona, the Argentine did something he’d never previously done in his Barca career and scored two direct free-kicks in the same game. The first broke the deadlock in the 17th minute against an Espanyol side who approached the derby with a rare sense of belief having won 5 of their opening 6 home league games.
However by the time Messi added his second expertly placed free-kick, Rubi’s side were already facing up to the prospect of one of their heaviest ever Barcelona derby defeats. Never before had they been beaten at home by their closest rivals by a margin of more than four goals and they only narrowly avoided that fate on Saturday. In between the Messi strikes, both Ousmane Dembele and Luis Suarez scored with excellent finishes as Barca put in by far their most accomplished away league performance of the season.
The manner of the win sent out a real message to the rest of the league and it was one that certainly justified their status as favourites for the title. For perhaps the first time since the departure of Neymar, Barcelona simply overpowered the opposition with the quality of their front three. The performance of Dembele was particularly encouraging given the media storm he has been dealing with, although reports he was yet again late to show up for training the very next day could pose Ernesto Valverde with a fresh problem after he dropped the Frenchman for a similar incident against Betis a few weeks back.
Bale ends Drought as Madrid giants both Win
40 – Gareth Bale has ended a drought of 40 shots and 802 minutes without a goal in the La Liga, his longest streak in the competition. Relief. pic.twitter.com/4LpVwsMTt1
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 9, 2018
For all the criticism and the lack of game-time, Ousmane Dembele has still had a bigger impact on this La Liga season than any of Real Madrid’s forward players. The front three of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio that was firing earlier in the campaign have all gone through poor runs of form but the Welshman did at least end his league goal drought on Sunday.
Bale scored just 8 minutes into the game, 99 days on from his last strike in La Liga against Leganes on match-day 3. He has had to deal with considerable flack from the supporters this season, one which was always likely to be a defining one in his Real Madrid career with the departure of Ronaldo opening a door for the winger who was relegated to a fringe role for much of last term under Zinedine Zidane. Bale’s early goal at the Estadio El Alcoraz would prove the only one as Real Madrid came away with a narrow victory against a spirited Huesca side that remains rooted to the foot of table and continues to fail to turn decent performances into positive results.
There were three points too for Atletico Madrid as a three or perhaps four-horse title race starts to take shape. Diego Simeone’s men beat Alaves 3-0 with two of the goals coming in the final ten minutes for Atleti against the side that was directly below them heading into the game. Alaves’ bubble now looks to have burst but we didn’t really learn anything new about Atleti on Saturday. Over the next few weeks they travel to Valladolid and Sevilla, looking to add to their solitary away win so far this season in La Liga. If they fail to do that, then they risk really falling back with Real and Barcelona now starting to find some form.
Valencia strike late to deny Sevilla
Valencia 1-1 Sevilla FT
Mouctar Diakhaby’s injury time leveller denies Sevilla a first win in 8 at the Mestalla and the chance to regain top spot in LaLiga in the process.
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) December 8, 2018
In some respects the most significant game this weekend took place at the Mestalla. On the assumption that the top three would remain as it has done in each of the last six seasons, Sevilla and Valencia looked the two most obvious candidates for that key 4th place before a ball was kicked this term. Sevilla have certainly lived up to those expectations and there has even been talk of a title challenge with Pablo Machin’s men playing some exciting, attacking football that has been delivering points as well as entertainment.
Valencia fans though, haven’t had much of either to cheer. Saturday afternoon’s clash was shaping up to be another miserable Mestalla outing for Los Che when in-form Pablo Sarabia gave the visitors the lead with just under an hour on the clock. Sevilla had chances to seal a victory which would have represented a real statement of intent but ultimately were left frustrated as substitute Mouctar Diakhaby converted in stoppage time as Valencia claimed their 6th draw in 8 league outings on home soil this term.
They remain 10 points adrift of Sevilla, a margin that isn’t impossible to make up but right now there stands a very good chance that the current top four will be the sides representing Spain in the Champions League next term. Fatigue could eventually be a factor for Sevilla but January reinforcements are expected.
As for Valencia, these are now genuinely worrying times. They spent big this summer in converting the loan deals of Geoffrey Kondogbia and Goncalo Guedes into permanent deals. However both men have come nowhere near reaching the heights they hit last term and Valencia’s other summer signings are also struggling to make much impression. Michy Batshuayi has just 1 league goal to his name. Kevin Gameiro, another expensive summer purchase, has just 2 and for all the talent in their squad, they remain La Liga’s joint lowest scorers 15 games into the season.