La Liga: Real Sociedad stake Champions League claim
Basques beat Valencia, their rivals for fourth spot, in a six-goal thriller.
By Halima Ali
Currently without a permanent president after Manuel Llorente’s tearful resignation earlier in the month; without their new stadium which has been years in the making due to the club’s financial problems; and possibly without a manager as Ernesto Valverde is stalling over committing his future to the club – Valencia could also be without Champions League football next season.
Heading into the weekend clash at Real Sociedad – their direct rivals for a coveted spot in Europe’s premier competition – Los Che’s manager led a rallying call, billing the game the most important since he took charge of the club.
“This is the closest game we’ve had to a final until now,” he said.
“Real Sociedad are on an unbelievable run and these three points mean a lot. If we win we’ll go ahead of them, if we lose we’ll be very far behind…It’s a decisive game.”
Valencia went into the game in good form and high spirits having thumped fellow European pretenders, Manuel Pellegrini’s Málaga, 5-1 last weekend, scoring four goals in the space of six minutes and it was the visitors who struck the first blow on Sunday evening.
With 25 minutes on the clock, Aly Cissokho curled a wonderful cross to be met by the head of Roberto Soldado, who had got in front of his marker to glance the ball into the bottom corner.
Ten minutes later, with the referee having dismissed a potential Sociedad penalty, the home side got back on level terms when 21-year-old Íñigo Martínez shook off the attention of Ricardo Costa and side-footed the ball on the volley into the top right corner.
In the second half, the hosts finally took the lead through a counterattack when an Éver Banega freekick was cleared out of the box, and Imanol Agirretxe burst out of his own half and exchanged a scintillating one-two with Gonzalo “Chori” Castro, before galloping down the right wing and sliding a perfect pass back to the Uruguayan, who slotted past Diego Alves.
The match looked to have been put to bed with five minutes remaining when Agirretxe smashed a volley into the Valencia goal, but pouncing on a mistake, Jonas headed home from close range to make it 3-2.
A comeback was not on the cards however and in the last minute, Agirretxe ran through on goal and chipped the keeper, sending the Anoeta faithful wild.
The result means La Real extend their unbeaten run to 15 games and the massive win over Valencia gives the Basques a five-point lead over Málaga in fifth place and Valencia in sixth, with 15 points left to play for.
Barça keep the champagne on ice
Meanwhile, following a 4-0 mid-week drubbing by Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Barcelona’s title celebrations were temporarily put on hold as they were held to a draw at Athletic Bilbao. A Catalan victory and Real Madrid loss would have secured them the Liga title but it was not to be as the hosts took a surprise 27th-minute lead when Markel Susaeta scored from close range.
With an hour gone, Lionel Messi – who had missed Barça’s last three La Liga games with a hamstring problem – came off the bench to equalise in the 67th minute and soon after, Alexis Sánchez made it 2-1. Midfielder Ander Herrera struck a low shot into the corner in the final minute to level.
In the Spanish capital it was derby day and with José Mourinho resting key players – including Cristiano Ronaldo – ahead of their Champions League semi-final match against Borussia Dortmund tonight, Atlético Madrid squandered yet another opportunity to clinch victory in this encounter when they threw away a lead to lose 2-1.
Atléti took the lead with just four minutes on the clock through Radamel Falcao, but a Juanfran own goal and strike from Ángel di María secured victory for the visitors.
It has now been 14 years since Los Colchoneros last beat their neighbours, but they will get the opportunity to try again in the Copa del Rey final next month, when the two sides meet at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Real Sociedad 4 – 2 Valencia CF
Real Betis 1 – 1 Deportivo La Coruña
Real Valladolid 1 – 1 Sevilla FC
Málaga CF 2 – 1 Getafe CF
RCD Espanyol 0 – 1 Granada CF
Real Zaragoza 3 – 2 RCD Mallorca
Atlético Madrid 1 – 2 Real Madrid
Athletic Bilbao 2 – 2 FC Barcelona
Levante UD 0 – 1 Celta de Vigo
Rayo Vallecano 2 – 2 Osasuna
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Published: Apr 30 2013
Category: Spain News, Sports
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
Short URL: http://iberosphere.com/?p=8477
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Tags: Champions League, la liga, Liga, Real Sociedad, spain, spain soccer, spanish football