Sometimes, poor football can be the most exciting football. Defending standards might have plummeted in the seventh round of La Liga fixtures, but combined with some dazzling attacks, it made for a thrilling weekend.
Every fixture produced at least two goals, with a total of 37 goals scored overall. We may be accustomed to Real Madrid and Barcelona running up cricket scores but nine other clubs joined the party by scoring at least two goals.
Not including the perennial big two, there were 30 goals scored this weekend. As a comparison, the previous weekend brought a mere 11 goals from 18 teams.
In week where Europe is still basking in Ryder Cup glory, we’ll follow golfing etiquette of the ‘honours’ going to the highest-scoring teams. Therefore, first up, and no surprises here, is Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo hit a remarkable record-equalling 22nd La Liga hat-trick, which means he is now level with Alfredo Di Stefano and ex-Athletic Bilbao striker Telmo Zarra.
How Bilbao could do with some similar scoring exploits to those of Zarra 70 years ago. For all Ronaldo’s brilliance, the neutral football fan might find the story of the Lions’ troubles of more immediate interest. The heady late August evening when Bilbao fought back against Napoli to reach the Champions League must seem like an eternity ago.
A 3-0 win over Levante three days later, and things couldn’t be better for Ernesto Valverde and his men. Seven games later with only two goals, it’s patent that a lot of work is needed over the international break.
A close second to Madrid are Seville, who dispatched four goals past a hapless Deportivo. While Deporprop up the table, Los Sevillistas continue their fantastic start to the season. Those neutrals who loved Atletico Madrid breaking the Primera duopoly may be hoping that Sevilla can be this season’s surprise package. One would say they lack the squad depth to really make a title challenge however an improvement on last season’s fifth place finish is a very realistic ambition, regardless of Athletic’s catastrophic start.
Sevilla’s only defeats have come against the two Madrid teams, both away from home. Stephane Mbia continued his rich vein of form with two goals, and with help from the equally impressive Carlos Bacca, and a goal from Victor ‘Vitolo’ Machin, a 4-1 win was secured.
Four other teams fired in three goals, but precedence must be given to Valencia, who produced the performance of the round by soundly beating Atletico 3-1. A blistering start saw the home side race to a 3-0 lead at Mestalla, and a Mario Madzukic goal on 29 minutes was the best it got for Diego Simeone’s men.
Guilherme Siqueira’s penalty was saved by penalty-stopper-extraordinaire Diego Alves, who has now saved 13 from 27 kicks in La Liga. A red card for substitute Alessio Cerci completed a miserable afternoon for the incumbent champions, who seem to be lacking the ferocious tenacity and edge from the 2013-14 season. Meanwhile, Valencia remain one of only two unbeaten teams, and sit proudly in second place.
Surprisingly, the overall highest scoring game featured Eibar and Levante, who previously had only scored five and one goal respectively. A match than started with an early Levante goal ended with a 93rd minute equaliser from Piovaccari, denying Les Granoteswhat would have been a crucial away win. A 3-3 draw was probably a fair result in the end.
In Galicia, Celta Vigo lost 3-1 at home to a Moi Gomez-inspired Villareal. Two goals in two minutes from Gomez, plus a second-half effort from Mario, mean the Yellow Submarine close the gap to one point behind Celta. Villarreal’s only losses this season have come against Madrid and Barcelona.
With two of their next three fixtures against Seville and Valencia, we’ll soon have a clearer idea of whether Marcelino’s men are serious contenders for a European place.
A potentially cagey affair between two teams who both survived last season by the single point turned out to be an entertaining contest. Elche twice took the lead against Almeria, but an 84th minute goal by Tomor Hemed meant a share of the spoils. Both teams may look back at this fixture as two important points dropped come May.
It may still be early, but leapfrogging your opponents is always immensely satisfying, and Malaga will be delighted with their hard-fought victory over Granada. Coming from behind after an opening minute goal from Youssef El-Arabi, it would take 79 minutes for Malaga to claim the lead. It came through a Antunes penalty, but Granada can claim with some justification that it was too easily awarded.
Espanyol’s recent solid form continued with a 2-0 home victory over Real Sociedad. Two wins and two draws from the last four fixtures means the Periquitossit comfortably in eighth position, seven places above La Real. With a run of fixtures coming up against teams around them, Sociedad will need to pick up points for beleaguered Coach, Jagoba Arrasate.
Barcelona aren’t used to coming last in any list, but this week their perfunctory 2-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano was the equal lowest scoring fixture. Fittingly, it is Barca’s defence – or more accurately their goalkeeper – who is more deserving of the headlines. Luis Enrique’s men set a new La Liga record with a seventh consecutive clean sheet, meaning Claudio Bravo beats the record of Camp Nou predecessor Pedro Artola, who went 560 minutes without conceding in 1977-78.
Conversely, it took only 78 seconds for Lionel Messi and Neymar to put the Catalans two ahead. Messi is now two goals shy of the Spanish 251 goal-scoring record, set by – that man again – Zarra.