Let’s all be real, the game of the weekend in Spain had nothing to do with La Liga. Spain played host to one of football’s greatest rivalries, The Superclasico, so of course La Liga took a back seat. River Plate and Boca Juniors came to the Bernabeu to play the second leg of the Copa Libertadores Final, after one of the wildest game build-ups anyone has ever seen.
La Liga Weekend: Drama-Filled Libertadores Final Steals The Show
River Plate 3-1 Boca Juniors
It may not have been the quality that we have come to expect from La Liga but it certainly had more than enough drama. Any game that saw two goals and a red card all in extra time is bound to be drama-filled. But Juan Quintero’s extra-time winner is what will stand out from this game for years to come.
It was a wonder strike, the type of hit that compatriot James Rodriguez would certainly be proud of. In off the bottom of the crossbar, Quintero’s strike sent the River Plate end of the stadium into absolute pandemonium. That pandemonium was made easier by River already being up a man after a bit of controversy.
The second yellow card that was shown to Boca Juniors midfielder Wilmar Barrios was quite controversial. The challenge was a 50/50 on the halfway line, with Barrios standing up and Exequiel Palacios in a slide. Barrios and Palacios collided with the ball at the same time, crashing into each other. Usually, in that spot, the player in the slide is the one in trouble, but inexplicably the referee sent Barrios off with this second yellow.
Down to ten men, it was hard for Boca to hold out, still beaten by some individual greatness from Quintero. They tried to score at the end, but were eventually down to nine men after Fernando Gago angrily limped off. From there, River held out with all kinds of craziness going down before Oscar Martinez got to score in an empty net. An absolutely wonderful game.
Elsewhere in La Liga
We still have plenty of La Liga action to cover from a busy weekend. Let’s start with the Catalan Derby, where Barcelona rocked their neighbors Espanyol 4-0 thanks to another starring performance from Lionel Messi. Who cares that he only has a left foot when it’s the best left foot ever seen? Two more free-kick goals, plus an amazing pass that sent Ousmane Dembele through for a goal; just another day in Messi’s office.
That’s four losses in a row for Espanyol, whose great start now looks a thing of the past. They could have gone top when they played Sevilla, now they sit ninth, such are the margins in La Liga. This win took Barcelona top by three points over Sevilla and they looked poised to stay there. The right players coming back and an easier fixture list gives them a great chance to pull away.
La Liga Game of the Weekend
No, this isn’t the spot to talk about the snoozefest that was Real Madrid’s 1-0 win at Huesca. This space is saved for games like the 4-4 draw between Eibar and Levante. It’s hard to tell what has gotten into Levante this season but, boy, are they full of goals.
They came out for the second half up 2-1 but 20 minutes after the break they were already down 4-2. Levante, though, managed to come all the way back, getting a stoppage time equaliser from Borja Mayoral, of all people. The four goals take Levante to joint third highest scorers in the league, remarkable for a club such as them.
More impressively, they sit sixth in the table and boast wins over both Barcelona and Real Madrid since Paco Lopez took over in the Spring. He has been a revelation for Levante, bringing to light an outstanding striker partnership. Roger Marti and Jose Luis Morales have combined for 13 goals this season, a big reason for their success.
Atletico Madrid 3-0 Alaves
Finally, it’s time to recognize one of the players of the season so far: Rodri Hernandez. The defensive midfielder, dubbed the Spanish heir to Sergio Busquets, had a slow start to the season but, as he goes, so do Atletico Madrid and he was outstanding against Alaves. He was all over the field, scoring a goal and making eight clearances; Atletico dominated because of it.
It’s not like Alaves are a bad side, this was a third v fourth game after all. On the other hand, Atletico should dominate a team like Alaves at home, and they did. Though Alaves deserve credit for the fight they showed, that fight doesn’t get any points. Rodri and his teammates made sure of that.