zondag 1 april 2012

La Liga Report

Osasuna 1-5 Real Madrid
Ronaldo & Higuain at the double & Benzema hits stunner as Mourinho's men make a statement in La Liga
Los Blancos reached the 100-goal mark in the league this season as they shifted the pressure back on to Barca in the battle for La Liga with a comprehensive victory in Pamplona

Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo - Osasuna vs Real Madrid

Real Madrid remain six points clear of title rivals Barcelona at the top of La Liga after a comfortable 5-1 victory over Osasuna at the Reyno de Navarra on Saturday. 

Karim Benzema netted the first of the night with a stupendous volley before Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain extended Madrid's lead before the break. Osasuna clawed a goal back early in the second half through Nino, but it was in vain as Ronaldo and then Higuain completed the rout, ending the Navarrans' six-game unbeaten streak. 

Benzema fired Los Blancos ahead with a truly remarkable strike, connecting with Ronaldo's deep cross. The ball hung in the air, allowing the Frenchman to set himself up before showing perfect technique as he unleashed an unstoppable volley into the opposite corner from a tight angle.

In pursuit of a second, Madrid counterattacked at pace ending in Ronaldo's dipping effort narrowly missing the target. The visitors had manufactured the chance after the referee had let play continue following Esteban Granero's crunching tackle, a challenge that Mendilibar contested, resulting in the Osasuna coach being sent to the stands. 

As the quality of play subsided, the Navarrans drew a number of fouls, one of which saw Sergio Ramos harshly cautioned, ruling the defender out of Valencia's visit to the Bernabeu next weekend. 

Ronaldo then explosively put his side two up as he netted his first-ever goal at the Reyno de Navarra. Picking the ball up all of 40 yards from goal, the Portuguese international took one look before rifling a stunning effort into the top corner. 

Mourinho's side found a third not long after when Xabi Alonso's precise pass found Higuain. The Argentine international, clean through, provided a cutely clipped finish over Andres Fernandez to net his 100th Madrid goal five minutes before the break.

Dejan Lekic was introduced for the second half as Osasuna looked to reduce the three-goal deficit, which they did after just two minutes. Roversio won the ball deep in Madrid territory before crossing toward the far post where Nino was on hand to send a bullet header past Casillas. 

Higuain would have re-established Madrid's three-goal cushion after rounding Fernandez, but for a moment of pure comedic value. Ronaldo collided with the Argentine as both men looked to provide the finishing touch, but instead they watched in despair as the ball trickled behind for a goal kick. 

Osasuna remained in the ascendancy as the half progressed but Madrid always threatened on the break, and Los Blancos were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area after a fluent counter. Ronaldo stepped up and drilled in a low strike that took a deflection to wrong-foot Fernandez as he registered his 37th Liga goal this season. 

The Portuguese then turned provider with beautiful footwork on the wing, as Madrid put the game to bed. The former Manchester United man danced past his marker before presenting Higuain with the easiest of headers to double his goal tally for the evening. 

As the game drew to a close Roland Lamah was shown two consecutive yellow cards as Osasuna finished the match with 10 men. 

Madrid's five strikes on the night saw them reach the 100-goal mark in La Liga this season, now just seven shy of their club record. Mourinho's side return to Champions League action in midweek against APOEL, whilst Osasuna face Rayo Vallecano next weekend. 

Barcelona 2-0 Athletic Bilbao
Iniesta & Messi goals see Catalans stay six points behind Real Madrid
Pep Guardiola's side kept up the chase at the top of the table thanks to a comfortable victory over a tired Basque outfit at Camp Nou

Andrés Iniesta, Gorka Iraizoz - FC Barcelona vs Athletic Club Bilbao

Barcelona cut Real Madrid's lead at the top of the Spanish Primera Division back to six points with a 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou on Saturday evening.
The visitors struggled to make an impact on the match, and looked very fatigued having played just 48 hours before in the Europa League. The Catalan side duly took advantage, with goals from Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi sealing the three points.
The Blaugrana, who had entered the game nine points adrift of Real Madrid after the capital club won 5-1 at Osasuna in the earlier kick-off, thought they had taken the lead with a fantastic move on the edge of the box just seven minutes into the match, with Messi and Dani Alves combining to set up Thiago for an easy finish inside the box. However the goal was correctly ruled offside by the linesman and Athletic were let off the hook.
Pep Guardiola's men came within inches of grabbing the opening goal of the match in the 25th minute, but for a world-class clearance off the line from Jon Aurtenetxe to save the visitors. Messi picked out Gerard Pique at the back post, who thought he had scored when he slid in with a looping shot but the 20-year-old was there to head clear.
But the deadlock was eventually broken just five minutes before the half-time whistle through a thunderous finish from Iniesta. Alexis Sanchez was the catalyst for the attack after he tracked back to rob Athletic of possession before giving the ball to Messi, who slipped a pass down the channel. Iniesta then drove towards goal before smashing a shot into the roof of the net past Iraizoz.
Marcelo Bielsa made a couple of positive changes at half-time, with Ander Herrera and Iker Muniain being introduced to the action. This sprung the visitors into life, as they looked more dangerous on the counterattack in the final third.
However, just over 10 minutes after the break, Barcelona doubled their lead thanks to a penalty from Messi. The spot-kick appeared to be the correct decision after Cristian Tello got the wrong side of Javi Martinez in the box and was brought down by a push from behind. The Argentine coolly dispatched the penalty in the bottom right corner.
Athletic then introduced Fernando Llorente into the fold, but he, much like his team-mates, failed to inspire his side's attack, although Muniain did have an effort cleared off the line by Pique 10 minutes from time after the teenager had rounded Victor Valdes.
Barcelona closed out the match for their seventh league win in a row. They now have 72 points but remain six behind rivals Real Madrid at the top of the table. Athletic Bilbao are in 11th on 38 points, nine points adrift of the coveted Champions League places, but they could drop further after Sunday's round of matches.


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