March 9 - Barcelona beat Real Sociedad 1-0 to go top of La Liga, while Real Madrid fell to a 2-1 defeat at Real Betis. Here are the talking points from the weekend in La Liga.
The relegation battle is heating up with Mallorca and Leganes both earning their first away wins of the season at the weekend, inspired by loan players from Real Madrid.
Mallorca earned a 2-1 victory over Eibar and Leganes won by the same scoreline at Villarreal. Although both clubs remained in the relegation zone, they left Espanyol three points adrift at the bottom.
Takefusa Kubo struck the winner for Mallorca and Real Madrid loanee Oscar Rodriguez scored both of Leganes’s goals, including a sensational volley.
“Oscar is a spectacular player, top level,” said Leganes coach Javier Aguirre.
“He’s pure talent, he’s got a shot similar to Cristiano Ronaldo. I see him at Real Madrid, along with Martin Odegaard and Kubo the Santiago Bernabeu is going to enjoy it.”
Real Sociedad utilised an interesting technique to defend a Lionel Messi free-kick at Camp Nou.
The Argentine playmaker is arguably the world’s best free-kick taker and the Basque side decided to make his life as hard as possible when he had a dead ball opportunity about 25 metres from goal.
Imanol Alguacil’s side made a short wall of three men, placed a player on either post and packed the box with the rest of their side.
It meant Barcelona could fill the box too, without fear of being offside, and left Messi very little goal to aim at.
The Argentine’s effort was headed to safety by a defender on the edge of the six yard box, and it may be a tactic which other sides copy in the future to keep Messi at bay.
“It was good,” admitted Barcelona coach Quique Setien of the defensive strategy.
“But it has a risk too, because the goalkeeper might not be able to see the ball coming.”
Real Betis defender Sidnei and Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema took with one hand and gave with the other in an entertaining battle.
The game was an end-to-end whirlwind and that sense of madness was exacerbated by the goals.
Sidnei crashed in a sensational opener, catching out Thibaut Courtois with a thumping drive at the near post, before giving away a penalty with a clumsy foul on Marcelo.
Benzema slotted home from the spot, grateful for only his third goal in 15 matches, but then handed Betis their winner on a plate.
The French striker undercooked a pass for Sergio Ramos and Andres Guardado intercepted it and played in former Barcelona forward Cristian Tello to finish. (Editing by Pritha Sarkar)