It was a weekend of big-time results for many of La Liga’s biggest teams. Barcelona went away to Girona and got the three points, Sevilla hammered Levante for the three points, and both sides from Madrid got impressive wins as well. However, the biggest of big-time results went to the resurgent Athletic Bilbao, which is where we start
La Liga Weekend: Big-Time Results From Big Teams
Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Real Betis
It’s been two months since Gaizka Garitano took over at Athletic and things couldn’t feel more different. After their well-chronicled awful start, Bilbao haven’t lost a league game since Garitano took over the side. That run continued on Sunday when they took on Real Betis at San Mames. Betis are the sort of team that want to have the ball and control the game, which played right into Athletic’s hands.
They sat back and hit Betis on the counter all day, even creating more shots despite having just 38% of the ball. They only converted one, but that was all they needed, and it couldn’t have come from a better source. Iker Muniain of course, the 26-year-old Athletic Bilbao captain, seems back to his best after an awful injury stint last season.
His play and the play of Inaki Williams are the biggest reasons why Bilbao are playing so well. They are absolute dynamite on the counter and Garitano has surrounded them with runners to do the hard work. Players like Oscar De Marcos, Ibai Gomez or Inigo Cordoba, creative runners who know how to do the gruelling stuff.
Its’ worked fantastically, as Athletic have picked up 15 big-time points since he took over. Those points have taken them from the relegation zone, up to 12th, but they won’t stop there. Athletic are now only three points behind seventh-place Valencia and a return to Europe.
Espanyol 2-4 Real Madrid
It was a wild game in Cornelia when Real Madrid travelled to take on Espanyol, highlighted by a big-time performance from Karim Benzema. The 31-year-old Frenchman has been rightfully questioned as Madrid have struggled this year, but man was he at his best this weekend. Making great runs, creating great opportunities and scoring goals. He said after the game that he has the soul of a number ten in a number nine body and you could believe him after a performance like that.
The other highlights of this game were both at center-back for Real Madrid. It starts with a rare first-half version of the Sergio Ramos experience, where he scored Madrid’s second goal and then got a yellow card for a needless challenge. He then almost got sent off for dissent, only to leave the game at half-time anyway with a knee injury.
The other centre-back, Raphael Varane, did not do much better. The World Cup winner got sent off for only the second time in his club career and it was a strange one as he only clipped the heels of the Espanyol player. He was trying to jump out of the way when it happened but the referee and VAR felt there was nothing in it.
Girona 0-2 Barcelona
Speaking of VAR, it had another adventure in the Girona v Barcelona game. This Catalan derby was supposed to be played in Miami before the Spanish FA squashed it, but the Spanish referees couldn’t keep themselves in order for this game. In the first half alone, there were two clear-as-day handballs which should have been given as penalties; one for each side.
That wasn’t the only blunder, as referee Pablo Gonzalez Fuerte decided he was going to send off Girona defender Bernardo Espinosa for his second yellow card. It was nothing close to a yellow and you have to feel for teams like Girona going down a man because of a poor decision from an official.
They did not want sympathy, though; they played their best football of the game despite being down a man and a goal down. There was a 15-minute stretch where Girona were taking it to Barcelona but, as most Barcelona games go, Lionel Messi put an end to that. He got a lovely pass from Jordi Alba and he chipped the keeper for Barca’s second goal and the three points.
Sevilla and Atletico
Finally, a word on the other two big teams that got big-time points this weekend. Sevilla hammered a strong Levante side 5-0, including goals from their star strike partnership Andre Silva and Wissam Ben Yedder. The two have combined for 19 La Liga goals this season, the biggest reason Sevilla are in the top four.
Atletico, on the other hand, got another classic 2-0 win at home against Getafe. There was one incredible stat to come out of this game. Since Diego Simeone took charge of Atletico Madrid, he has never lost to Getafe. It gets better; Getafe have not scored in any of those 15 losses to Atletico Madrid. Simply, the most Atletico stat ever.