maandag 9 april 2012

La Liga Report

Zaragoza 1-4 Barcelona
Messi reaches 60 goals for the season with double against 10-man hosts
Pep Guardiola's men pulled off a come from behind victory to earn all three points against the relegation strugglers, who played half the game with only 10 players

Lionel Messi - Barcelona

Lionel Messi grabbed his 59th and 60th competitive goals of the season as Barcelona labored to a flattering 4-1 victory over 10-man Zaragoza at La Romareda to close the gap on Primera Division leader Real Madrid to just three points.

Despite missing a penalty just six minutes previously, Carlos Aranda gave the home team the lead on the half-hour mark. However, Carles Puyol equalized on 36 minutes before Messi put Pep Guardiola's men in front just three minutes later as Zaragoza were forced to play the whole of the second-half with 10 players after Abraham Minero's sending off for two bookings.

Messi scored a late penalty with four minutes to go before Pedro grabbed a fourth as Barcelona wrapped up their 10th successive La Liga win.

The Aragons made a positive start to proceedings and should have taken the lead in the fifth minute. Ruben Micael found himself clear on the left side of the Barca box and was able to square the ball to Aranda, only for the striker to inexplicably hit the ball in the wrong direction, sending his effort away from goal.

The Blaugrana struggled to create chances in the early stages and were given an almighty fright when Victor Valdes brought down Angel Lafita in the box to give away a penalty on 23 minutes, just seconds after Aranda had struck the post. The striker was the man to step up to take the spot kick but his tame effort was parried away by Valdes.

Despite the disappointment of his penalty miss, it was Aranda who grabbed the opening goal of the game on the half hour mark. Pablo Alvarez's through ball seemed to catch the Barca defense out as Aranda raced clear of Javier Mascherano. The Spanish striker's initial effort was poor as Valdes blocked the ball but he managed to head the rebound into the net.

However, Barca was level just six minutes later and had some nightmare goalkeeping from Roberto to thank. The former Benfica shot stopper spilled Cesc Fabregas' corner allowing Puyol to poke the ball home from 12 yards out.

The Catalans then completed an amazing three minute turnaround when they took the lead on 39 minutes. Hitting Zaragoza on the counterattack, Alexis Sanchez' cross-field pass found Messi who sidestepped Paulo da Silva before thrashing the ball into the top corner from 15 yards out for his 59th goal of the season in all competitions.

Just before the break, the home side's evening went from bad to worse when they were reduced to 10 men. Abraham Minero, who has already been booked, earned his second yellow of the evening for tripping Alexis after the Chilean had sped past him on the right wing.

Barcelona looked far from convincing in the early stages of the second half but could have extended its lead on 63 minutes. Alexis received a pass from Messi before showing some quick feet to get the better of Javier Paredes and slamming a low effort goal-wards from 15 yards out that was brilliantly tipped around the post by Roberto.

The visitors then put the result beyond doubt on 86 minutes after Paredes brought down Alexis in the box. Messi stepped up to slam the ball past a helpless Roberto to score his 60th of the season, before Pedro made it 4-1 in injury time following the Argentine's assist.

Guardiola's side entertains Getafe on Tuesday evening in La Liga while Zaragoza face a tricky away trip to Sevilla two days later.

Real Madrid 0-0 Valencia
Gap at La Liga summit now four points as Guaita produces heroics in visiting goal to earn battling draw
Mourinho’s side was held to an entertaining goalless draw at the Bernabeu where both teams struck the woodwork in a truly compelling match.

Raúl Albiol, Sofiane Feghouli - Real Madrid vs Valencia

Real Madrid dropped points for the third time at the Santiago Bernabeu this season against a determined Valencia side as they shared the spoils in a thrilling goalless draw.

Vincente Guaita ensured the Los Blancos failed to re-establish their six point lead over Barcelona at the summit of La Liga table as the Valencia stopper denied Karim Benzema with a miraculous double save late on.

Earlier Cristiano Ronaldo had struck the post, while Tino Costa and Ricardo Costa were also denied by the woodwork with neither side able to find the winning goal.

Having already threatened Guaita with an instantaneous shot on the turn Ronaldo beat the Valencia stopper with a rasping drive. He set himself superbly only to see the ball hammer back off the upright as Los Blancos started on the front foot, before Sofiane Feghouli came close with effort that flashed wide of the target.

In a frantic opening Madrid reasserted its dominance and a superb move led to Ronaldo led to another sight of Guaita’s goal. Mesut Ozil’s beautiful through ball found Benzema whose back heel gave the Portuguese international a chance to test Guaita.

Valencia then burst back into the match as Marcelo’s loose ball invited Tino Costa to drive towards goal. Iker Casillas parried the shot away presenting Ricardo Costa with a glorious chance but he inexplicably hit the post with his header from six yards out.  

And Casillas needed to be alert again when Feghouli wriggled free in the penalty area before finding Pablo Patti. The Argentinean’s first time effort was kept out by the Spaniard’s strong hand as, incredibly, the match remained goalless at halftime.

Jose Mourinho introduced Angel Di Maria at the break and the Argentinean had an immediate impact threading the ball through to Ronaldo. The former Manchester United ace dragged the  ball onto his left foot before bringing out a fingertip save from Guaita, all within 27 seconds of the restart.

With the game becoming subdued Tino Costa lined up an audacious effort from 25 yards out that he connected with superbly. The shape of the shot saw the ball crash back off the crossbar as the intensity of the match suddenly increased once again.

Chaos erupted in an otherwise controlled affair as tempers flared from both teams, but the chances were at a premium in the second half until Benzema’s first time pass suddenly set Ronaldo clear. But the Portugal international clipped his own heel as he looked to set himself in incredible circumstances.

Valencia came close next as Jeremy Mathieu struck an effort across goal that narrowly missed Casillas’ far post as both side’s were creating opportunities.

Guaita then proved to be an immovable object as he turned Di Maria’s effort over with a flying stop before incredibly denying Benzema with a truly stunning double save as Madrid failed to find a way through.

The match finished in frantic fashion as Los Blancos’ search for a winner gifted first Pablo Hernandez and then Jordi Alba a sight of goal but neither player was able to find the back of the net.

Benzema had a glorious chance to become a hero deep in injury time but his goal bound effort was hacked clear off the line by desperate defending from Valencia who hung on to secure an incredible point.

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