The top three clubs in La Liga enjoyed a successful and dramatic weekend, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla all earning crucial away victories. Each club has been balancing UEFA Champions League commitments as well, as the 2016-17 campaign is nearing a thrilling conclusion.
Barcelona and Sevilla Keep the Pressure on Real Madrid
Saturday’s visit to Real Betis put Sevilla and manager Jorge Sampaoli in a difficult position, down 1-0 at half-time. Strong performances from Gabriel Mercado and Steven N’Zonzi in the second half brought Los Nervionenses an important 2-1 victory.
Barcelona travelled to the Estadio Vicente Calderon to face Atletico Madrid in what was a physical and intense encounter. The final 45 minutes saw Lionel Messi score moments before the final whistle to earn the Blaugrana a key victory, and temporarily move the club into first place.
Real Madrid were able to reclaim their position at the top of table Sunday evening with a 3-2 win at Villarreal. Still with a game in-hand, Los Blancos’ comeback victory from 2-0 down was an impressive display of determination and skill.
Barcelona are now one point back of Real Madrid in second, with third-place Sevilla three points from the league leaders. All three clubs return to league play quickly this week with matches set for Wednesday and Thursday.
Real Betis 1 – Sevilla FC 2
Real Betis took an early lead in the Derbi Sevillano with a wonderful free-kick from Riza Durmisi (36’) to open the scoring. Utilising five defenders on the back-line, manager Victor Sanchez’s side were able to clear out several scoring opportunities for Sevilla.
Substitutions early in the second half had an immense impact for Sevilla, as the introductions of Wissam Ben Yedder and Vicente Iborra brought a more proactive approach. Free-kicks were ultimately the story, as Gabriel Mercado (56’) and Iborra (76’) each scored from a set-piece situation to give Sevilla all three points.
Sevilla now prepare to host Athletic Bilbao on Thursday evening.
Atletico Madrid 1 – Barcelona 2
An important result was desired by both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona on Sunday afternoon, as fixtures between both sides almost always seem to provide nervous moments for viewers and supporters.
Despite enjoying the majority of possession, Barcelona had difficulty dealing with Atletico’s stern defence. Rafinha (64’) and Diego Godin (70’) traded goals in the second half, before the mercurial Lionel Messi scored a late winner yet again to give his side a critical 2-1 victory.
Manager Luis Enrique’s side will host Sporting Gijon on Wednesday.
Villarreal CF 2 – Real Madrid CF 3
Allowing the fewest goals thus far this season in La Liga (18), Villarreal and their disciplined defence appeared set to see out a memorable victory over Real Madrid with a 2-0 advantage in the second half.
But unfortunately for a frustrated home crowd, the Yellow Submarine were obliterated by the Madrid attack late on.
Two quick goals from Manuel Trigueros (50’) and Cedric Bakambu (56’) gave manager Fran Escriba’s side the lead, until the final 30 minutes saw a severe downward spiral. Gareth Bale’s header (64’) and a Cristiano Ronaldo (74’) penalty-kick levelled the match, with Alvaro Morata scoring the winner in the 83rd minute.
Real Madrid return to the Santiago Bernabeu to play Las Palmas Wednesday evening.