La Liga: Real Sociedad inflict Barça’s first loss of season
Atlético and Real Madrid close the gap at the top with convincing wins, but the Catalans are still running away with the title.
By Halima Ali
A strange thing happened at the weekend – something not witnessed at all during the 2012/13 season so far. Having drawn with Málaga in the Copa del Rey in midweek, FC Barcelona finally lost a liga game after 19 jornadas unbeaten. Tito Vilanova’s men were looking pretty much unstoppable having torn apart almost every team they have come up against, but Real Sociedad were to inflict the Catalans’ first liga defeat, coming from two goals down to claim a last-minute 3-2 victory over the league leaders.
It had seemed to be business as usual for Barça, who took the lead early on with a Lionel Messi goal. The Argentine scored for a record 10th game in a row when he struck after just seven minutes, before Pedro doubled the visitors’ advantage to seemingly put them out of sight.
Sociedad responded through Chori Castro just before halftime and later, when Gerard Piqué was given his marching orders having picked up a second yellow card for a trip on Carlos Vela following a booking in the first half, the hosts took advantage of the extra man to draw themselves level through a Javier Mascherano own goal just after the hour.
The match seemed to be heading for a draw but as the game moved into injury time, Imanol Agirretxe met a Carlos Martínez cross to seal a 93rd-minute victory for Sociedad that will surely go down as one of the finest in their history.
Atlético took full advantage of Barcelona’s defeat and trimmed the gap on the leaders to eight points when Adrián López and Koke struck in a 2-0 win at home to Levante.
Atléti maintained their perfect home record with an efficient performance and have taken 47 points from 20 games.
Star striker Radamel Falcao damaged his left hamstring during the game but a scan showed the injury was less serious than initially thought and he is expected to be sidelined for three weeks.
Mourinho’s men find their Mojo
Almost as rare a sighting as a Barça loss, Real Madrid hit five goals – against Valencia at the Estadio de Mestalla on Sunday night, and it was not just the result that got the press and fans excited, but the manner in which they played.
Having defeated Los Che once already on Wednesday night in the Copa del Rey, José Mourinho’s men were at it again, but this time the still to be de-throned Spanish champions were playing with real swagger, to the extent that some saw this as the return of last year’s team, the Madrid of 100 points.
The Portuguese manager, of course, had another well-documented argument with a player in the build-up, this time apparently with Cristiano Ronaldo following the Copa del Rey win in midweek. And while the aftermath of his row with Ángel di María rumbled on and everyone waited to see whether or not club captain Iker Casillas would be in the line-up, there was even talk that Ronaldo himself would be relegated to the bench as punishment.
In the end he started – perhaps even Mourinho has his limits – and all the baggage was soon forgotten when Gonzalo Higuaín got Madrid off the mark in the ninth minute as he fired past the Valencia goalkeeper, Diego Alves. The visitors’ doubled their advantage in the 35th minute when Ronaldo ran on to a long pass and cut back to give Di María time to arrive on the far side, before crossing for the winger to tap home.
Ronaldo then scored a brace in the space of five minutes before Di María was left unmarked on the break to take a pass from Mesut Özil and slip the ball under the helpless Alves to make it five before halftime.
Real Betis 1 – 1 Athletic Bilbao
Valencia CF 0 – 5 Real Madrid
Atlético Madrid 2 – 0 Levante UD
Real Valladolid 2 – 0 Real Zaragoza
Osasuna 2 – 1 Deportivo La Coruña
Málaga CF 1 – 1 Celta de Vigo
Getafe CF 1 – 1 Sevilla FC
Real Sociedad 3 – 2 FC Barcelona
Granada CF 2 – 0 Rayo Vallecano
RCD Espanyol 3 – 2 RCD Mallorca
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