La Liga: Deportivo fight back
Galicians seem to be finding form just in time, Barça thrash Mallorca despite Messi's absence and Real Madrid put five past Levante.
By Halima Ali
Just three weeks ago, with only three liga wins all season to their name, Deportivo de La Coruña were staring down the barrel of relegation. Currently working with their third manager of the season, it’s a far cry from the glory days of a decade ago.
League title winners in the 1999–2000 season and runners-up on five occasions, not so long ago the club was regularly finishing in the top half of the table and featuring in European competition. Depor played in the UEFA Champions League five seasons in a row, and reached the semi-finals in 2004 where they were eventually defeated by José Mourinho’s Porto side who would go on to lift the trophy.
They have been relegated before, dropping down to the Segunda División in 2011 before making an immediate return to the top flight the following season, but this time things are different, this time, SuperDepor are crippled by debt.
In January, Depor entered administration under Spain’s Ley Concursal. Their long-serving chairman, Augusto César Lendoiro – who has been at the helm for more than 20 years – declared the club had debts of €93 million. Administrators found the real number was closer to €156 million and called for him to leave
Money was owed to current players and former striker Albert Luque, but the Galicians were also found to be indebted to more than 200 different people and companies, including a restaurant in La Coruña where they had managed to rack up a tab of €107,000.
Lendoiro stood his ground, insisting those who know the club best would be able to dig it out of this dark hole. Instead of leaving, in February he hired Fernando Vázquez – manager number three of the season and three weeks ago, the turnaround began.
First up were Galician neighbours and rivals, Celta Vigo, who were demolished 3-1. Next came Mallorca away where Depor edged the win in a five-goal thriller that ended 3-2.
And last weekend, it was Real Zaragoza who paid a visit to the Riazor. The hosts got off the mark early, when with just over 10 minutes played, Bruno Gama picked up the ball on the edge of the area and cut inside, blasting a low shot past Roberto Gago.
Zaragoza pulled level soon after with a Hélder Postiga penalty before the visitors took the lead in the 35th minute when Francisco Montañés chipped keeper Daniel Aranzubia. Depor again equalised when a Pizzi free kick found Carlos Marchena for a tap-in from close range just before the break. Early in the second half, the hosts got the winner, with a little help from Zaragoza as defender Abraham Minero tried to deal with a ball towards goal but was only able to turn it into his net.
The three victories came against direct relegation rivals. The 3-2 result at the weekend, Depor’s third league win in a row, takes them from 20th place up to 18th and they are now within a point of Zaragoza having already climbed above Mallorca and Celta. The fightback is well and truly on.
Fàbregas steps up
It was happy news in Barcelona too, as despite the absence of Lionel Messi – out with injury sustained in his side’s midweek Champions League clash against PSG – the Catalans put five goals past Mallorca at the Camp Nou. Cesc Fàbregas netted a hat-trick while Alexis Sánchez scored twice but the rout was dominated by the welcome and emotional return of defender Eric Abidal, a year after he underwent a liver transplant.
Manager Tito Vilanova was also back on the Camp Nou bench for the first time since returning from New York where he underwent cancer treatment.
Meanwhile, in the Spanish capital, Real Madrid came from behind to defeat Levante 5-1.
The visitors took the lead when Miguel Alfonso launched and finished off a counterattack in the 31st minute but just five minutes later, Gonzalo Higuaín’s exquisite volley from a Xabi Alonso pass pulled the home side level and a Kaká penalty before the break gave Madrid the lead.
Ronaldo – who came on in the second-half having been rested for tonight’s Champions League tie – fired home his 29th league goal of the season in the 84th minute before Mesut Özil netted a brace in quick succession.
Sevilla FC 2 – 1 Athletic Bilbao
Valencia CF 2 – 1 Real Valladolid
Getafe CF 0 – 0 Atlético Madrid
Osasuna 0 – 2 RCD Espanyol
Celta de Vigo 0 – 2 Rayo Vallecano
FC Barcelona 5 – 0 RCD Mallorca
Deportivo La Coruña 3 – 2 Real Zaragoza
Real Madrid 5 – 1 Levante UD
Real Sociedad 4 – 2 Málaga CF
Granada CF 1 – 5 Real Betis
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