This weekend in La Liga, we got to see a few new twists on timeless classics. There was Lionel Messi travelling to Sevilla and doing what he always does to those poor opponents, there was Real Madrid getting another ludicrous penalty decision on a Brazilian dive, and Atletico got another clean sheet. We are going to start, though, with a side that currently sit in fourth place in, which is something of a minor miracle
Dives, Hatricks and Getafe in Fourth
Getafe Are Fourth
Somehow, one of the smallest clubs in Madrid currently occupy a Champions League position. That’s right; Getafe, a side known more for kicking people than footballs, moved up into fourth place this weekend after beating Rayo Vallecano on Saturday. That joke aside, Getafe have played much more real football this season, and it’s paying dividends.
When they came back into La Liga last season they really were foul merchants. They used that aggression very well in their fight to stay in Spain’s top flight, but now, this season, they have started playing really good football and it’s down to their two-headed monster up top.
The strike partnership of Jorge Molina and Jaime Mata has been superb for Getafe. This is Molina’s third season at the club and by far his best. That is all down to the addition of Mata. The Spaniard was brought over from Real Valladolid in the summer after scoring 35 goals in their run to promotion last season.
So far, the pair have ten goals each this season, with Mata dropping more into midfield to link up the play. It’s allowed the 36-year-old Molina to stay further up the field and save his energy for the attack. But Mata has kept him linked to Getafe’s excellent defence that keeps them in almost every game.
As this is a fourth place side, they haven’t done what would have been the surprising thing and taken points off one of Spain’s top three. Instead, they have collected the points that they should have done against some of the lower teams, but have also won at Sevilla and beaten Alaves, their two closest rivals for fourth. Who knows if it will last, but it is absolutely worth appreciating.
Levante 1-2 Real Madrid
This game is all about Casemiro and his incredible dive. It happened in the 76th minute after the ball had careened around in the box on a corner. It fell to Casemiro, whose touch left the ball exposed for the Levante player to clear, which he did with a swinging leg. Casemiro was near the leg, he went over as if it had hit him, but it did not.
The referee who saw the play in real time gave the penalty. In live time, it looked like Casemiro had been caught, but the replay was much clearer. However, after consulting with his video assistants, the referee gave the penalty without checking the video himself and, after Gareth Bale dispatched it, the game was over.
The introduction of VAR was supposed to mean dives like this would no longer lead to penalties. It was supposed to stop players from being able to con the referee during quickfire play, but if referees in Spain are going to be so reluctant to use the video, what was the point in installing all those screens?
Sevilla 2-4 Barcelona
Poor old Sevilla didn’t deserve this. They were the better side against Barcelona for most of the game. They got lovely goals from Jesus Navas and Gabriel Mercado and went into half-time with a deserved 2-1 lead. Barcelona, on the other hand, were not very good at all, but when you have Lionel Messi, you can play badly and still come away victorious.
Messi is just a machine. This time, it was a hat-trick plus an assist that sunk Sevilla; there was an audacious chip for winner and even better chip assist to his strike partner Luis Suarez, but it’s hard for his play to overshadow how awful some of his teammates were. Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, in particular, offered next to nothing in this game.
After their performance in midweek against Lyon, that is not good. Coutinho just can’t seem to get anything right recently for Barca. His movement, timing, and technique look worse than at any point when he was at Liverpool and Suarez, who scored a lovely chip in this game, has shown the negative side to his game in recent weeks.
On the bright side for Barcelona, they got Samuel Umtiti back. He played well considering the layoff and he made it through 90 minutes without an injury. The other bright spot was Carles Alena, who played much better in 15 minutes than Coutinho did before they were switched. It will be interesting, but Alena has earned a start in one of the Clasicos to come this week.