It was a case of anything you can do I can do better as Real Madrid retained their five point lead over Barcelona, as both teams won 4-1.
With all the excitement of the midweek clásico, it was time for Mourinho to refocus and set his sights back on La Liga. Reports from Marca suggested that there was a rift growing at Real between Mou and his Spanish players; Mou blamed Ramos for Barcelona’s first goal. Ramos retorted by questioning the inclusion of Carvalho after four months out, and he also thinks that the Spanish players are treated differently.
However, the majority of these rumours were quashed with an efficient performance against Athletic. A theme of 2012 for Real has been poor starts and they continued with this ‘tradition’. The back four, without the Portuguese duo of Pepe and Carvalho, were rocked early by a fine counter attack by Athletic. Javi Martínez and Herrera linked up quickly before Martinez whipped a delightful ball for Fernando Llorente to finish smartly with his left foot.
Athletic should have added to their deserved lead moments later but De Marcos fluffed his chance. Marcelo who was partially at fault for made amends as he scored a fantastic goal after 27th minutes, Real were lucky to go into the break on level terms as Llorente missed a guilt edged chance. Real started the second half extremely well as Kaka was brought down in the area, Cristiano finished with aplomb. From then on Real dominated, credit must be given to Athletic who continued to attack to get back into the game, but, it just created space for Real to exploit. De Marcos capped off a poor game by getting sent off for another penalty this time the foul was on Benzema and Cristiano finished superbly again. Callejón a late substitute for Kaka made it four with a smart finish after a fine pass from another substitute Higuaín.
However, despite a solid performance some of the Madridista’s were unhappy with Mou who enduring some booing, who responded in typical confidence “They booed Ronald, Zidane and Cristiano, why shouldn’t they boo me”.
Barcelona who had only won 3 away games prior to their trip to Málaga, and had been underwhelming in them all bar victory at the Bernabau were fantastic against the nouveau-riche Málaga. An inspired Messi scored a breathtaking hat-trick; a fine header were the little Argentinean seemed to hang in the air, followed by two outstanding solo goals. Alexis scored the other goal and Rondón scored a late consolation goal. Barcelona rested many key players in preparation for the return leg against Real on Wednesday but waltzed past a Málaga side short on ideas, the home side badly missed their rock in midfield Toulalan.
Another side who had been struggling away from home is Athlético Madrid, but buoyed by the appointment of former player Diego Simeone they recorded their first away win of the season emphatically too against a disheartened Real Socidad. Falcao opened the scoring with a penalty after just 3minutes and went on to complete a well earned hat-trick, Adrian scored the other in a 4-0 thrashing.
Elsewhere in the league it was the Seville derby a game that has lost its animosity in recent years mainly because of the tragic death of Sevilla’s Antonio Puetra in 2007. This was the first derby for 1,079 days as Marca proclaimed was far too long; Spain’s 4th biggest city were hungry for a derby and their appetite was more than wetted with a memorable 1-1 draw with both sides producing fluid attacking football. No derby is complete without a red card and Federico Fazio duly obliged meaning that the 50,000 crammed into the Villaramín went home satisfied.
At the foot of the table Granada saw themselves dropping into the relegation zone whilst Villareal clawed their way out. Granada lost 3-0 at Espanyol and duly sacked their manager Fabriciano Gonzalez the man who took them to two consecutive promotions. The man whose job it is to keep them up this season is former Athlético Madrid boss Abel Resino. Villareal won 3-0 this evening to see them rise to 17th, but it seems they have fight the rest of the season out without their Brazilian forward Nilmar who looks like he could be returning to Brazil as he is set to join Sao Paulo.
Week 19 results in full
Espanyol 3-0 Granada
Racing Santandar 1-2 Getafe
Real Sociedad 0-4 Atletico Madrid
Real Betis 1-1 Sevilla
Osasuna 1-1 Valencia
Rayo Vallecano 0-1 Mallorca
Malaga 1-4 Barcelona
Levante 0-0 Real Zaragoza
Real Madrid 4-1 Atletic Bilbao
Villarreal 3-0 Sporting Gijon