In the final round of fixtures before the international break, both Barcelona and Real Madrid pulled five points clear of Atlético Madrid. Antonio Mohamed continued his impressive start at the helm of Celta, and Quique Setién’s Real Betis finally picked up their first three points of the season, in a much needed derby victory over fierce rivals Sevilla.
Jornada three kicked off in Madrid, as Getafe hosted newly promoted Valladolid at the Estadio Coliseum Alfonso Pérez. A feature of this La Liga season to date has been Valladolid’s solid defence, and it continued here, as the side many backed by some for the drop emerged with their clean sheet intact and a well deserved point on the road.
Although Getafe controlled most parts of the game, enjoying the majority of possession and outstriking their opponents, Sergio González Soriano’s setup was again impeccable, as they will prove a challenge for any side to break down, regardless of quality. In three La Liga games, despite not scoring a single goal, they sit in 16th on two points, with the only goal conceded coming against the champions. As for Getafe, 9th before the first break of the season is respectable, although they may feel they should have made it two wins in succession here, especially at home.
The weekend’s second game saw struggling Villarreal welcome Eusebio Sacristán’s Girona to the Estadio de la Cerámica. Winless after two and with questions being asked of Villarreal’s head coach Javier Calleja, his job is now in even more jeopardy, as the visitors left Villarreal with a well earned three points, thanks to a second-half strike from Cristhian Stuani.
Under the same coach last campaign, Villarreal finished in fifth place, just one outside of the Champions League positions, although now sit with just a single point after three games. A home loss against Real Sociedad during the first round of matches raised some eyebrows, and although they went to Seville and took a point away from Sevilla, this loss has now cranked up the pressure on the former midfielder to turn their results around.
Girona, on the other hand, sit in 12th, one of 11 teams on four points, and must surely be happy with their results under their new boss. Despite playing in only their second ever season in the Spanish top flight, avoiding relegation will not be enough for Sacristán you would feel, as fans would like an improvement on their tenth placed finish last year.
Friday’s last game saw Real Sociedad visit the Ipurua to face Eibar. Whilst Sociedad were disappointed with 12th last season, they started off positively this campaign, winning one and drawing one of their opening two, although last season’s surprise package, Eibar – who finished ninth – claimed their first win of the season, emerging on the right side of a 2-1 victory. In a closely contested game, the visitors took the lead on the 15th minute thanks to a Willian José penalty, and while some predicted a routine game from then on, as Eibar had lost their opening two fixtures, the hosts had other ideas.
Barcelona loanee Marc Cardona restored parity just before the half-hour mark, and just as the game seemed destined to end in stalemate, Charles headed home superbly on the 91st minute to send the home fans in to a frenzy. This win now should kick start Eibar’s season, as relegation would be a surprise after such an impressive last campaign.
Saturday’s action kicked off at the Balaídos as Celta Vigo welcomed many peoples pick to win the title, Atlético Madrid. Both Argentine managers, Antonio Mohamed and Diego Simeone, know each other since the age of seven and take the same pragmatic approach to football, meaning a draw would be the logical result. However no one envisioned Celta defeating last season’s runners-up 2-0.
Despite the game being evenly contested, quickfire strikes just after half-time from centre-forwards Maxi Gómez and Iago Aspas were enough to sink ‘Los Rojiblancos’, as Simeone’s men are now five points off the pace and in desperate need of re-organisation. They did not lose their first game last season until December, and although there is only three weeks of action behind us, and another 35 to go, their title aspirations are already looking slim.
Next up saw Leganés visit the Bernabéu. Both sides have had contrasting fortunes so far this campaign, as Madrid came in being one of only two teams with their 100% record still standing, and Leganés winless. And it remained the same when the full-time whistle blew. Gareth Bale opened the scoring on the 17 minute mark, albeit with some questionable goalkeeping, but a Guido Carrillo penalty drew the visitors level. The remainder of the first-half saw Leganés ask an obviously shaky Real back-line some questions, though they were ultimately outclassed in the second.
Karim Benzema, who is now flourishing following Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, allayed some fear that may have crept in to the mind’of some Madrid fans, before grabbing a brace with a wonderful strike from outside the box. A Sergio Ramos penalty with 25 minutes remaining made it 4-1, as the hosts saw the game out from there. Thinking back to this time last season, Madrid had already dropped four points, meaning their hopes of retaining their La Liga crown were over early. However, under Lopetegui, they look a much more dangerous, and well organised, team, as they look set to push Barcelona to the wire this time around.
The final day of action began on Sunday, as Levante welcomed Marcelino’s Valencia to the Ciutat de València for the Valencian derby. Having guided Valencia back to Champions League football last year, this season has been underwhelming for ‘Los Che’, as they remain winless after three, following the 2-2 stalemate against their city rivals.
Roger Martí gave the hosts the lead early on following a wonderful break on the counter-attack, although it only lasted three minutes, as Russian international Denis Cheryshev equalised. In a back and forth game, Martí scored again to put Levante 2-1 to the good, before Valencia again equalised, this time a Dani Parejo penalty several minutes after the break. Despite it being an even game, Valencia may feel as though they should have left with all three points, as Coke was sent off for the home side with just under 15 minutes to go. Although it is still early days, Valencia are sat in 16th with two points, while Levante are occupying the 4th Champions League place.
Alavés next hosted Espanyol at the Mendizorrotza. Claiming only one point coming in to the game, the home side were desperate for all three here, as being dragged in to a relegation battle early on may prove irreversible, and that is exactly what they did. A Léo Baptistão first-half penalty gave the Catalan side the lead, but two goals in three minutes from Borja Bastón and Rubén Sobrino turned the tie around for the home side, getting them their first win of the season. Alavés are now sat in 11th, while their opponents sit comfortably in 7th, with both being on four points, and despite their being a lot of football left to play, relegation should not be a chief concern for either side.
The champions were up next, as they gave Huesca the perfect opportunity to cause one of the biggests upsets football may have ever seen, welcoming them to the Nou Camp, and although it ended in a thrashing, Huesca gave a good account of themselves and played bravely.
They took a surprise lead on three minutes thanks to ‘Cucho’ Hernández, before strikes from Lionel Messi, a Jorge Pulido own goal, and a tidy Luis Suárez finish resumed normal service. Alex Gallar pulled one back for the visitors on the stroke of half-time, but the gulf in class eventually shone through, as Ousmane Dembélé, Ivan Rakitić, Messi again and Jordi Alba made it 7-2. Then, when Barcelona were awarded a late penalty, Messi passed up the opportunity for a hat-trick and gave the spot kick to his out of form team-mate Suárez. While 8-2 is a heavy defeat, Huesca mut not let their heads drop after such a promising start to their first ever La Liga campaign, as barcelona overtook Real Madrid at the summit on goal difference.
The Seville derby was the last game of the match week, and it was a fitting way to round it off. The atmosphere was electric at the Estadio Benito Villamarín, as fans got behind Quique Setién and his men as they were desperate for their first win of the season. The 12th man certainly was a factor in the game, as the raucous atmosphere before kick-off and during the anthem was something to behold. And considering the magnitude of the game, it was only fitting that club legend Joaquín scored the only goal to give the home side a narrow 1-0 win.
Many peoples team to watch for the season, the win moved Betis up to 13th, as you would feel the longer they went without a win the more they would struggle, while Pablo Machín’s eccentric Sevilla side slipped down to 5th.