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La Liga: Valencia’s thrashing underlines Spain’s class divide

After a 5-1 win, with four goals from Lionel Messi, Barcelona highlighted once again why the Spanish league is a two-horse show led by the Catalans and Real Madrid.


The loneliness of third place: Valencia's Unai Emery.

Valencia coach Unai Emery is under no illusions. Asked if it was impossible to compete for second place following defeat at the hands of a revitalised Barcelona side at the Camp Nou on Sunday, his answer was short and to the point: “”.

The 5-1 thrashing against their direct rivals for the runner-up spot illustrated, perhaps somewhat unfairly, the chasm that lies between the big two of Barça and Real Madrid and the rest of the league.

The eagerly anticipated clash couldn’t have started better for Valencia, who took the lead after just nine minutes when Pablo Piatti struck, but Los Che were completely undone by Lionel Messi. The Argentinean netted four times – to stay hot on the heels of Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for El Pichichi – before Xavi sealed the thumping victory by scoring shortly after coming on as a substitute.

Valencia, who earlier in the season held the Blaugrana to a draw, gave their worst performance of the current campaign and Emery conceded: “They were far superior. We were at their mercy.”

There are now 11 points separating the second-placed Catalans and Los Che, who lie 21 points off league leaders Madrid. But for Valencia, third place has an all too familiar feeling as the team no longer has what it takes to challenge the big two – Madrid and Barça.

Long gone are the days early last decade when, in a period spanning six years, the club had its most successful spell, winning five titles. Those included two La Liga titles, a UEFA Cup, the Copa del Rey and one UEFA Super Cup.

Valencia also reached the Champions League final for two consecutive years in 2000 and 2001 – though even then they played second fiddle yet again in losing to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively.

But while Barcelona and Madrid are continually strengthening their squads, huge debts in excess of €400 million have forced Valencia’s hand, and influential players such as David Villa, David Silva and Juan Mata have all been sold to help balance the books.

In more recent years it has not been so much a fight for silverware as a battle with Sevilla and Villarreal for third place. It is a battle Valencia have won for the last two seasons, finishing in third place twice, but with the dominance of the big two set to continue – both financially and on the pitch – anything higher seems a near impossibility.

Meanwhile, league leaders Real Madrid stayed on course with a 4-0 win over Racing Santander at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Ronaldo opened the scoring with a close-range header after just six minutes and it all went downhill as Racing were reduced to 10 men when Domingo Cisma was sent off on 39 minutes for a second booking.

Madrid took advantage of the extra man and doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time when Karim Benzema poked home, while Ángel di María marked his return from injury with a great third before Benzema got his second of the night and made it 4-0.

Former Madrid player Michel celebrated his first win as Sevilla coach after a 2-0 victory over Osasuna at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.

Gary Medel broke the deadlock for Sevilla in the first half and substitute Piotr Trochowski sealed the win with a second goal deep into stoppage time.

Elsewhere, another new coaching appointment, Javier Clemente, saw his Sporting Gijón side hold on to claim a 1-1 draw against Atlético Madrid in his first game in charge.

Atléti went ahead early on when a shot by Adrián López was turned into his own net by Roberto Canella, but the hosts responded well and it took only 17 minutes for Sebastián Eguren to equalise.



FC Barcelona 5 – 1 Valencia CF

Levante UD 3 – 5 Rayo Vallecano

RCD Mallorca 4 – 0 Villarreal CF

Sporting Gijón 1 – 1 Atlético Madrid

Athletic Bilbao 3 – 0 Málaga CF

Granada CF 4 – 1 Real Sociedad

Sevilla FC 2 – 0 Osasuna

Real Madrid 4 – 0 Racing Santander

Getafe CF 1 – 1 RCD Espanyol

Real Zaragoza 0 – 2 Real Betis

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Published: Feb 21 2012
Category: Sports, Featured, Spain News
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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