Barcelona regain top spot as Sevilla are held by Alavés
By Dave Redshaw BARCELONA regained top spot as Gerard Piqué and youngster Carles Aleña scored to secure a 2-0 win over struggling VILLARREAL at the Camp Nou. Barca, missing several regulars through injury, were far from at their best and the Yellow Submarine should have led early on, with Gerard Moreno hitting a post after holding off centreback Clement Lenglet. However, Piqué headed in Ousmane Dembele’s rightwing cross for the opener on 36 minutes. Lionel Messi was denied a second for the hosts soon after when Sergio Asenjo clawed his close-range effort away, and it took Ernesto Valverde’s team until three minutes from time to calm any nerves when substitute Aleña latched onto Messi’s pass to clip the ball over Asenjo for his first league goal.
SEVILLA surrendered their lead at the top of La Liga after only managing a 1-1 draw at high-flying ALAVÉS, who remain in fourth place. The Vitoria outfit went ahead when Jony found the back of the net at the far post on 37 minutes, with the Sevilla players appealing for offside. The visitors struggled to respond but Wissam Ben Yedder rescued a point with 12 minutes remaining, firing home after getting on the end of a ball from substitute Pablo Sarabia.
REAL MADRID made amends for last week’s shock loss at Eibar with a 2-0 victory over VALENCIA at the Santiago Bernabéu. Los Blancos gained an early advantage when Daniel Wass inadvertently headed a Dani Carvajal cross into his own goal on eight minutes, although Valencia had two great chances to equalise through Santi Mina and Gabriel before Lucas Vázquez got a second for Madrid with seven minutes left. The winger slotted in his first league goal of the season from Karim Benzema’s cross to hand boss Santiago Solari a sixth win in seven games since taking charge in October. Defeat for Valencia leaves them 14th while Madrid move into fifth.
HUESCA remain rooted to the foot of the table and seven points from safety after an Iago Aspas double condemned them to a 2-0 defeat at CELTA VIGO. The visitors had their chances in a lively first half but were made to pay for their profligacy in front of goal when Aspas grabbed the first for Celta seven minutes before the break. And it was the former Liverpool man again on 77 minutes who sealed the points for the Galicians.
LEGANÉS gained a much-needed win following a 4-2 success against a below par VALLADOLID at the Estadio José Zorrilla. Dimitris Slovas and Óscar Rodríguez found the net to hand Leganés a two-goal lead before halftime, before Toni Villa reduced the deficit five minutes into the second half. A Guido Carrillo double then put the game beyond the home side, with Enes Unal´s stoppage time goal little more than a consolation.
RAYO VALLECANO earned a first win in 10 games with a 1-0 victory over EIBAR at the Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas courtesy of a goal from captain Adri Embarba. The Basques dominated the opening period but fell behind seven minutes after the restart, Embarba finishing from a tight angle after Alex Moreno delivered the ball to the near post having broken down the left.
GETAFE moved into the top half with a convincing 3-0 home win over ESPANYOL. The clash remained goalless at half-time after a disappointing opening 45 minutes, which included a floodlight failure, and it took a piece of skill from Jorgé Molina on 55 minutes to break the deadlock, the striker crashing an unstoppable shot past Diego López. Jaime Mata doubled the Madrid side’s lead 10 minutes later and left-back Vitorino Antunes made certain of the points by wrapping things up with a late strike.
REAL BETIS got back to winning ways after last week’s defeat to Villarreal with a 1-0 home win over REAL SOCIEDAD in a keenly-fought contest. The afternoon got off to a bad start for Los Béticos when Andrés Guardado needed to be replaced by Ryad Boudebouz, but thanks to an assist from William Carvalho they took the lead just after the half-hour mark through Junior Firpo. A flurry of yellow cards in the second half ensured the game became somewhat scrappy, yet the Andalusians held on to record a third home win of the campaign.
ATLÉTICO MADRID continue to struggle away from home as they were held to a 1-1 draw at GIRONA. Diego Simeone’s men have just one victory on their travels and did not create much in terms of chances in the first half, although Saúl went closest to opening their account with a shot from inside the area that hit a post. The game came to life within 60 seconds of the restart when Cristhian Stuani scored from the penalty spot after Jan Oblak was adjudged to have brought him down inside the box. While the referee initially gave a freekick outside the area, VAR was used to show the offence had taken place inside and Stuani converted for his 11th goal in 12 games. It looked as if it might prove enough to take the points, but Diego Costa brought the ball down in the 83rd minute and Girona defender Jonas Ramalho put the ball into his own goal when attempting to clear.
ATHLETIC BILBAO’s season goes from bad to worse and they have still won just one league game after going down 3-0 at LEVANTE. After a disjointed first half Chema got the opener in stoppage time, prodding the ball home following an effort from José Luis Morales. José Campaña made it two on the hour after another effort from Morales, and the same player was involved again 10 minutes later when finding Roger Martí to add a third and make the game safe. Athletic’s misery was compounded minutes afterwards with Peru Nolaskoain receiving a red card for a dangerous tackle. The Basques, who have spent their entire history in the top flight, are stuck in the drop zone three points from safety.
Real Betis' defender Junior Firpo (L) celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Real Sociedad
Real Madrid's Lucas Vazquez celebrates after scoring the 2-0 lead