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A drama-filled last evening of 'La Liga' action ended in joy for Real Sociedad, who clinched fourth place and a spot in the Champions League qualifying rounds ahead of Valencia, who joins Málaga and Betis in the Europa League. There was also euphoria in Vigo, as Celta pulled off a great escape to send Mallorca, Deportivo and Zaragoza down to the second division.

Prior to kick-off, Deportivo was the only of the four relegation candidates with its fate in its own hands, with a win enough to secure safety. The snag: it faced a Real Sociedad side whose two-way shootout with Valencia for Champions League qualification had gone down to the wire. Montanier's men kept up their side of the bargain, resisting a late Depor onslaught to hold out for a 1-0 win thanks to a first-half Griezmann strike. They were rewarded when four goals from Álvaro Negredo inspired Sevilla to a 4-3 victory over Valencia, crushing the latter's Champions League dreams.

Celta, meanwhile, earned a hard-fought win over an Espanyol side that on paper had nothing to play for. Natxo Insa's effort 16 minutes in was ultimately enough for the Vigo outfit to stay up, but the tension was palpable at the Balaídos stadium until the very last kick.

Mallorca and Zaragoza were both up against it from the off and ultimately sank into the quagmire in front of their fans, albeit in contrasting fashion. The Islanders thumped Valladolid 4-2, only for Celta's win to render the result irrelevant. Zaragoza, meanwhile, kept Atlético at bay for 84 minutes before caving in and losing 3-1. As things panned out, however, not even a victory would have rescued the Aragonese side.


Zaragoza and Mallorca disputed another one of their finals at La Romareda. Gregorio Manzano, Mallorca’s manager, described the state of mind of all the relegation participants last Monday April 15, 2013 in Onda Cero’s radio show Al Primer Toque.


“As much as us coaches transmit, which is one of our obligations among many, to the players – serenity, calmness, no anxiety, no fears, controlled anxiety – the logical terms elite athletes need in crucial moments of the profession, especially with the idea of staying in First Division or not, I think of them as inevitable.”


But, the footballer will always have a heart and brain, and those legs will not react if the brain has all the problems derived from qualification motives, and in games like today’s [game against Celta de Vigo in Estadio Iberostar] players missed details and plays that proved costly.”


And that is how the games between direct opponents will be like, when the team is down, the equation is simple, the teams [involved in the relegation battle] get scored on more often than score, that is obvious, and it will cost a lot to win matches,” concluded Manzano.


The hullabaloo at this point for Mallorca was at its uppermost level; the team had defeated a direct opponent in Celta, 2-1.


After the game against one of the Galician teams in desperate need of points, the other Deportivo La Coruña, Mallorca tied against Rayo Vallecano, 1-1, and after going up 0-1 against Zaragoza at La Romareda, lost 3-2.


The faces among Mallorca players after the final whistle in Zaragoza were not of disbelief, or high frustration. More or less the looks on their faces reflected their coach’s words said weeks back, “my legs did not react when it mattered.”


Two of the three goals scored by Zaragoza were thanks to the impetuous and devilish runs from Paco Montañés and Rubén Rochina. Rochina scored his first goal for Zaragoza, and how important it was, he gave Zaragoza the 3-2.


The relegation battle in La Liga is not pretty. It defies what football is and is described by former Spanish goalkeeper, Santi Cañizares, as “a rugby match, but in this sport the legs are involved not arms.”


The streak of plays revolve around getting into the adversary’s terrain and box. Use every conceivable pass to reach that goal and shoot to score. It is not classy; the teams involved in the battle lack that player that can take the time to pause the game and measure the intensity levels. Deportivo La Coruña has that player in the historic Juan Carlos Valerón, while Zaragoza has a player like Apoño, who instead of ultimately leading the team to victory it can also lead the team to sorrowful land.


Zaragoza and a happy Manolo Jiménez got an important victory Saturday night, their first victory since December 22, 2012. La Romareda dismissed its team with a loud and resonant “Sí se puede”, while Mallorca fans who made the trip from the Balearic Islands to Aragón also applauded their players.


Mallorca is dead last in the table, while Zaragoza and Granada are also found in the dead zone. In five games, the new members of Liga Adelante will be determined. Manzano and Giovani dos Santos’ team is in need of another win.




With the next series of Champions games in mind Tito Villanova gave players a much needed time off with the exception of Victor Valdes, Dani Alves and Xavi  who are regulars on the first squad. Cesc, Alexis and the kids jumped to the Romareda to play Zaragoza.


As it happened last week with Fabregas and Sanchez performance against Mallorca, today was time for Thiago and Tello to shine.


No Messi and Iniesta? No problem. Xavi was the captain of the ship, but the kids from La Masía waste no time to prove the new generation is getting ready for the big stage.


Thiago represents the continuation of the spirit that lives in Barcelona’s soccer philosophy. A mid-fielder with finesse and tempo. A mid-fielder marked by destiny to own Barcelona midfield in the future. A player that has the skilsl to make the most needed transition from possession of the ball to a striking attack.


The new generation also brings powerful attackers such as Tello. Both connected the dots today in attack to achieve an easy 3-0 win against Zaragoza. The 35,000 people at the Romareda today also had an opportunity to give a standing ovation to Abidal, as happened at the Camp Nou last weekend  when he enter as a replacement to play the last 10’ minutes of the match.


With 24 more points in play, Barcelona  only need three more wins this season to claim La Liga 2012-13 title.


Barcelona continued their march towards a 22nd La Liga title as a much-changed side were still too strong for struggling Real Zaragoza in a 3-0 win at La Romareda. Thiago Alcantara got the visitors going with a tidy finish on 20 minutes and the Spanish international then played in Cristian Tello to make it 2-0 just before the break.

Tello showed great pace and poise to register his second of the evening seven minutes after the restart and there was even a rare clean sheet for Barca despite the absence of Gerard Pique at the back.

Tito Vilanova made six changes from the side that started Wednesday's exacting Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain. However, it was one of those not rested that caused a surprise as Xavi started a league game for the first time since early February. Of those to come into the side it was Tello who looked most likely to make an impression as he curled just over after barely a minute and then blasted another effort off target from Alexis Sanchez's clever cut-back 15 minutes later.

Zaragoza had dropped into the relegation zone due to Deportivo La Coruña's win on Saturday and their lack of confidence having not won a game at all this year was in evidence as they failed to trouble a makeshift Barca defence throughout the first-half. Indeed the opening goal arrived from one of the few occasions when Zaragoza might have been able to put the visiting defence under pressure, but instead Barca broke upfield from a home corner and a neat exchange of passes between Thiago and Sanchez allowed the midfielder to sweep home just his second goal of the season.

Thiago was involved again as Barca doubled their advantage six minutes before the break as this time he and Tello combined to allow the winger to run through on goal and he showed great composure to slot past Roberto Gago. Sanchez could even have had a third before the break but for a good reaction save by the Zaragoza keeper and the Chilean's luck was also out at the beginning of the second period as this time he lobbed Gago only to see the ball come back off the bar.

It didn't take long for the third Barca goal to arrive though as Tello showed off his frightening speed once more to dash past Glenn Loovens and slot into the far corner. To their credit Zaragoza kept going and Paco Montanes forced Victor Valdes into his first save of the day with 28 minutes remaining. However, they lacked the creativity needed to open up Barca and the Catalans comfortably held on to move 16 points ahead of Real Madrid, who take on Athletic Bilbao later on Sunday night.


A fight between Deportivo and Zaragoza fans in a Coruña bar left two injured and significant damage to the establishment.

National Police sources explained that between 25 and 30 Zaragoza supporters, whose team faced Deportivo at the Riazor stadium, were at the El Pescador bar in the centre of the Galician city when they were attacked by between 70 and 80 Deportivo fans.

Both the local and national police intervened and prevented things from escalating. However, there was a clash in which the radicals attacked using bats.

As a result, two people required medical assistance, one of whom had to be admitted to hospital to receive stitches.


Zaragoza came roaring out of the boxes and got off to a perfect start. A tackle in midfield led to a swift counterattack culminating in Rodri’s goal in the 6th minute.

Real Zaragoza scraped a point against Real Madrid, and it could easily have been three. The usual suspect was responsible for keeping it down to one - Cristiano Ronaldo, who never allows himself a breather, not even when others are going through the motions and there are bigger fish to fry on the horizon. Rodri put the home side ahead and the Real Madrid star player equalized, in a game which could easily have swung in Zaragoza’s favor after two chances fell to Postiga, which were denied by referee Undiano, first of all, and then by Real Madrid goalkeeper Diego Rodríguez.

Zaragoza came roaring out of the boxes and got off to a perfect start. A tackle in midfield led to a swift counterattack culminating in Rodri’s goal in the 6th minute. And the hosts remained faithful to their initial strategy, keeping their high line in defence and pressing intensely in midfield.

Real Madrid, kept back by this pressure, resorted to long balls, and this had an adverse effect on the performances of Modric and Kaká, forced into a secondary role. But just when Real Madrid was looking least dangerous, Cristiano Ronaldo latched on to a rebound just inside the area and drilled low and hard into the bottom left-hand corner in the 18th minute. Marcelo, meanwhile, was playing as in the good old days. At full flow, he is a force to be reckoned with, and this bodes well for the final stretch of the season.

A big change then came, modifying Real Madrid's shape. Khedira, Özil and Di María came on, and Arbeloa, Callejón and Kaká went off. The away side's expectations increased. Özil, however, was virtually anonymous. Not so Di María, who produced a couple of great counterattacks, but it was to no avail. Zaragoza held firm and with great dignity.

If you thought Barcelona was a one-man attack squad called Messi, think again. When Barça demolished Getafe on the weekend with a scoreline of 6-1, each of those goals were scored by a different player.

Andres Iniesta had a hand in the first two goals that transpired when Sanchez and Messi rode great passes by the star midfielder to put their side 2-0 up, on 13 minutes. The rest of the period, before the break, was a tale of missed scoring chances. 

But the Catalunians found their tempo after the interval with goals by Villa and Tello helping double the tally to 4-0.  Vasquez reduced the margin for Getafe but Andres Iniesta wasn't done yet. The midfielder got on the scorecard with a strike in stoppage time and Gerard Pique added to Getafe's misery with a late, late goal.
The win resulted in pushing Barça 12 points clear at the top of the table after Atletico Madrid slumped to 2-1 loss away at Rayo Vallecano.

Barcelona assistant manager Jordi Roura was euphoric over the result and particularly delighted that each of the six goals scored by his side had come from a different player. He was also greatly enthused by the good form shown by Barcelona’s Chilean forward Alexis Sanchez.

Sanchez who had been under pressure after attracting criticism for his recent lack of goals was delighted after his first goal of the season.  He said he thought the goal was special but that he had never stopped believing that he was a good player. He added that he knew how good he was and what he was capable of doing but ruled that the ball wouldn’t go in after the many chances he had created earlier in the season.

In other La Liga results this past weekend, Real Sociedad beat Zaragoza 2-1 to move into seventh place behind Vallecano in sixth. But the weekend will be mainly remembered for the 4-0 decimation of Athletic Bilbao by Espanyol.