Villarreal proving credentials, while Neymar steals the ClásicoPosted: October 29, 2013
Villarreal continue to grow in strength and maturity ever since being promoted from the Liga Adelante. Their derby win over Valencia was huge – in significance, and in margin, with El Submarino Amarillo’s rout against their rivals coming with a 4-1 scoreline.
If Valencia continue their season with the same attitude as in this game, then they can forget about mounting a serious challenge for Champions League qualification. Coach Miroslav Djukic admitted that his side showed too much respect for the opposition from the minute they walked onto the pitch. They allowed Villarreal to play their game, and that showed. Dos Santos (twice), Uche, and Pérez gladly took what was on offer to them to bring their side two points behind Real Madrid, and only eight behind the impeccable leaders Barcelona.
Overcoming a rival for the top four spots was a significant step for Marcelino’s team. Previously, they had drawn with Real Madrid at home, an admirable result, and had done it in a way that marked their intent in this league, outshining some of the world’s brightest stars on the world’s most expensive footballer’s debut. However, in gameweek 9, the yellow submarine fell foul to Athletic Bilbao, who’ve also began this season displaying their intents on playing Champions League, or failing that, at least Europa League, football next season.
These games are good indicators to who will be there or thereabouts come May, and so far, Villarreal have shown us that they can emphatically get the job done in El Madrigal. What will prove to be the toughest tests for the newly promoted club are the games away from home, and consistency. The loss to Athletic came in Bilbao’s new San Mamés stadium, and their previous defeat came away to Real Betis – a game that either side could have won had they been on their game. Upcoming home fixtures to Getafe, Atletico Madrid, and Málaga will show us what Villarreal can do at home, but when the season is coming to a close and they have to visit the likes of El Coliseum and El Calderón, Villarreal’s European credentials will really be put to the sword.
Elsewhere, I spoke last week about Getafe‘s fine form, and questioned whether it could continue against sterner opposition. This week they hosted Athletic Bilbao with the two sides level on points going into the encounter. Laporte’s first goal for Bilbao came early in the match, and Athletic were hard-working enough to see out the 1-0 victory.
However, El Geta did have their chances, none more clear cut than Diego Castro’s penalty just before half time. The winger placed the ball well, low to Iraizoz’s left, but the keeper (who was earlier injured from a knock and needed to be replaced at half time) dived down well and pushed the ball out for the corner. The home side played well, it has to be said. But in truth, I don’t think they played well enough for a side who are knocking on the doors of Europe, and even Champions League at this stage of the campaign.
For the Basques, the result means it’s now two for two for them against teams higher placed in the league than them, having beaten Villarreal the week before as I mentioned earlier. The week prior to that, they had gotten a result against Valencia. Like in the opposite case to Getafe, and in similar vein to Villarreal’s results against Real Madrid and Valencia, it’s the results against the teams around you that can speak loudly of your measurement. Athletic Club will be buoyed by this win, and really there’s nothing stopping them from earning a European spot this season. With some young and inexperienced players in their squad however, that may be telling by season’s end, but for now Ernesto Valverde’s side are clearly enjoying the football they are playing, and getting the results they need. Athletic now lie just one point behind fourth place, and three behind Real Madrid.
I suppose I have to talk about the clásico, don’t I? Barcelona‘s 2-1 win over Real Madrid left the Catalans six points ahead of their eternal rivals, and after Atleti’s emphatic victory over Betis, still just the one clear of them at the top of the table.
This year, we’ve been gifted a new subplot to follow in the world’s most expensive fixture, with Clásico debuts for Neymar and Gareth Bale. It was the Brazilian Blaugrana who stole the headlines, not only from Bale, but from Messi and Ronaldo (remember them?) as well. The former Santos boy scored the first and teed Alexis up for the second, and was a threat to Carlo Ancelotti’s side all evening. A fine Clásico debut.
Bale on the other hand looked like he just didn’t fit in. His yellow card summed it up for him; right on the stroke of half time he left his foot a little bit high in a challenge on Gerard Pique for the referee’s liking. It was a challenge that may or may not have been given as a free kick in England, but one that yielded him a booking in Spain. His face said it all, he didn’t understand why he had been given the yellow card, and he doesn’t yet understand the ins and outs of La Liga. His lack of fitness, thus lack of playing time, hasn’t helped him in this regard, but is that really an excuse? Maybe for the first few weeks of the season, but it will become a line that will wear Los Blancos’ fans patience thin if performances don’t improve.
Certainly the ugliest and most regrettable talking point of La Liga week ten was at Elche, where Granada defender Allan Romero Nyom was racially abused by a section of the Elche fans section. The Granada defender stopped play after hearing the abuse, and kicked the ball into the crowd. La Liga club’s found guilty of racist behaviour from fans can receive a fine of up to €60,000 and have future games played behind closed doors.
The referee’s report of the incident read, “In minute 89 of the game, after the ball went over the line for a Granada throw in, the fans in the corner closest to that action, all followers of Elche, began to make the onomatopaeic noise of ‘monkey’ in a repeated fashion, directed towards the player of black origin [sic] of the visiting team — Allan Romero Nyom,” translation from Dermot Corrigan.
As far as on-field matters go for the result, Granada’s victory was a huge one for them, lifting them three points clear of the danger zone, and now only one point behind Elche. For the home side, the defeat sees an end to the impressive three game winning streak they had been on ever since the unjust loss to Real Madrid.