MADRID (Reuters) - Leaders Barcelona and Real Madrid were held to draws while Sevilla made up ground on the top two and Alaves slipped after a promising start. Here are five talking points from the weekend’s La Liga action.
BARCELONA FORGET THE ART OF DEFENCE
After seven games last season Ernesto Valverde’s side had conceded two goals. A sturdy defence gave them a springboard to launch their ultimately successful title charge from.
Barcelona have conceded eight goals in seven matches, their worse defensive start to the season for 13 years. With Frank Rijkaard at the helm they shipped 10 in seven games in the 2005-06 season.
Gerard Pique has been in particularly poor form, with the centre-back playing Oscar de Marcos onside to strike in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao.
While Cristiano Ronaldo’s rivalry with Lionel Messi has defined La Liga during the past decade, a new battle is emerging. Three of the best goalkeepers in the world all play in the Spanish top flight now.
Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen reached his 150th game for the club against Athletic, while Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois and Atletico’s Jan Oblak went head to head in the Madrid derby on Saturday.
Both played important roles in the goalless draw, with Oblak making an excellent save from Marco Asensio and Courtois denying both Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa when through on goal.
Real have now failed to score in two games running and questions are being asked over whether they have enough firepower without Ronaldo.
STUANI LOOKS GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH
In the first half of Girona’s 1-1 draw at Huesca Cristhian Stuani was brought down seemingly on the edge of the area, as the referee pointed for a free kick.
However, he protested that the foul was inside the area and with the help of VAR the officials noted that he was right and awarded a penalty.
Stuani dispatched it with a cheeky dink and celebrated his sixth goal of the season, but later complained about the video technology which had helped him.
“I don’t trust VAR. I was convinced I was in the box but then it was repeated for them,” Stuani said. “What I am saying is that they adhere to the rules in one game and not in another.”
The Girona forward is not the only one suspicious of VAR, with Atletico Madrid seeking clarification from La Liga on the times it is referred to after debatable decisions during the derby, including a potential Casemiro handball in the area.
HE’S NO MORON
Real Betis were hotly tipped at the start of the season to impress and entertain but endured a rocky start in which they lost 3-0 at home to Levante and drew with Alaves and Athletic Bilbao.
They have begun to find their form, however, and even though goals still appear hard to come by, striker Loren Moron has made the difference two matches in a row.
Arriving in the box at the right time, Moron netted the only goal of the game against Girona in midweek, before repeating the trick against Leganes.
Sent on with six minutes to go, Moron broke into the area to dispatch Cristiano Tello’s low cross and earn Betis a second 1-0 win in a row.
Even if they are not living up to their billing at the start of the season, Moron is ensuring they stay near the top of the table - Betis are fifth, two points off the top.
LEO SUAREZ MAKES PARENTS PAY
In Spain there are no rules stopping loan players appearing against their parent clubs, unless a specific instruction is inserted into the deal, known as a “clause of fear”.
Villarreal did not stop Leo Suarez from playing against them when they loaned the winger to Real Valladolid and paid the price on Sunday.
Suarez netted in the 1-0 win with an exquisite volley that Valladolid’s new owner, former Brazil striker Ronaldo, would have been proud of.
The Argentine wide man asked for forgiveness from the Estadio de la Ceramica, although he could not help but smile after a superb strike.
Suarez’s goal sent the newcomers ninth, helping them to their second win of the season after their first arrived on Thursday against Levante.
Editing by Ed Osmond