November 5, 2018 / 12:03 PM / 11 days ago

Talking points from La Liga weekend

MADRID (Reuters) - La Liga leaders Barcelona hit two goals in the final three minutes to earn a 3-2 win at Rayo Vallecano, while Santiago Solari picked up his first league win as Real Madrid’s interim coach with a 2-0 win over Real Valladolid.

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v Real Valladolid - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - November 3, 2018 Real Valladolid's Jordi Masip dives as teammate Kiko Olivas scores an own goal and the first for Real Madrid REUTERS/Juan Medina

Here are five talking points from the weekend’s action:

Madrid ride their luck

Although Real Madrid scoring a comfortable home win over minnows Valladolid seems standard, the truth is they came close to losing this match.

Valladolid twice struck the woodwork before a wayward shot from Madrid substitute Vinicius Junior struck Kiko Olivas and flew into the net in the 83rd minute.

It was a fortuitous way to break the deadlock, and even though Sergio Ramos added a penalty, it could not disguise another pale Madrid performance.

Even though the win moved Madrid up the table to sixth, fans whistled their own players, knowing the performance was sub-par.

Interim manager Solari has two wins from two games but this display shows Madrid need a coach who can bring determination and drive to a dressing room apparently lacking in those characteristics.

Good weekend for Uruguayan strikers

In Lionel Messi’s absence Luis Suarez has stepped up a level for Barcelona.

After his Clasico hat-trick, Suarez added two more goals against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday to earn Barcelona three points on a night where they might well have left with nothing.

Suarez broke the deadlock after 11 minutes and scored the winner in the 90th, in the right place at the right time to stab home Sergi Roberto’s searching cross.

On Sunday, Maxi Gomez followed suit for Celta Vigo. Likened to fellow Uruguayan Suarez for his playing style, the striker netted a double in the second half of a thrilling 3-3 draw at Real Betis.

Gomez possesses a similar knack to Suarez for being able to score all types of goal, from the mundane to the spectacular, his first a diving header, his second a tap-in.

Dembele’s mixed bag

Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele is an enigma. The French forward possesses great talent but seems incapable of harnessing it on a consistent basis.

Coach Ernesto Valverde has put him on the bench for the last few matches, even selecting Rafinha Alcantara over Dembele on the right wing to replace the injured Messi.

And yet when called on Dembele offers magic that only the Argentine could muster.

An excellent showing from the bench in the Clasico saw him set up a goal for Arturo Vidal, and he netted Barcelona’s second to pull them level at 2-2 against Rayo.

After coming on Dembele had played poorly, wasting opportunities and giving the ball away, but then produced an excellent half-volley to level the scores.

Late drama

On Sunday in La Liga four of the five games featured late drama which changed the outcome, another example of this season’s increased excitement.

Pape Diop struck in the 91st minute to earn Eibar a 2-1 win over Alaves, with Alfonso Pedraza outdoing him by netting in the 92nd minute for Villarreal in their 1-1 draw with Levante.

Getafe’s Jorge Molina cruelly denied bottom of the table Huesca their first win since the opening day of the season with a 91st minute goal in a 1-1 draw.

Sergio Canales of Real Betis found the net with an exquisite free-kick in the 87th minute, another late impact that earned his side a 3-3 home draw with Celta Vigo.

La Liga has been topsy-turvy this season, with any team capable of beating any other, at any time.

Home blues

Real Sociedad drew 0-0 with Sevilla on Sunday which would usually be considered a good result, but it only increased frustration in San Sebastian.

The Basque side played their first three games of the season away from home while building works were completed at the Anoeta stadium, but since then they have not been able to record a single victory at home.

They lost against Barcelona and even lowly Valencia at home, while drawing with Rayo Vallecano, Girona and now Sevilla.

No wins in five home matches has disappointed supporters who expect more from a side that usually has a strong record at Anoeta, considered one of the toughest places to travel to in La Liga.

Editing by Keith Weir

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