La Liga Week 25: Barcelona back in the race as Real Madrid lose at home

If Real Madrid fail to win their 31st league title this season, they may well look back at this week as being where they lost it. Madrid conceded a ridiculous goal which gave Getafe a 0-1 win at the Bernabeu and allowed Barcelona to reduce the points difference to just two. Only four weeks ago when Barça dropped points at Athletic Bilbao, Madrid had a lead of nine. So far in 2008 Madrid have lost three games in La Liga, two in the Copa del Rey and one in the Champions League, while Barça remain unbeaten.

To be fair to Madrid they are having problems with injuries, especially in defence where Pepe has been missed. This week Bernd Schuster played Gabriel Heinze in central defence alongside Cannavaro which allowed Sergio Ramos to move back to right back. Sneijder and Robinho are also injured but a club the size of Real Madrid really should have enough cover for these losses.

Getafe also had players out and lost both their first choice and second choice right backs through injury during the game. Madrid were unable to take advantage of this and in the 64th minute conceded a goal which will be remembered as one of the most stupid ever seen at the Bernabeu. A Madrid attack ended with Raul squaring to Robben who found the back of the net before running away to the corner flag to celebrate. As his team mates mobbed him they were slow to realise that the goal had been disallowed for offside against Raul, Getafe restarted the game quickly and only Heinze and Guti were back to face a counter attack by four Getafe players, the ball eventually came to Uche who gleefully shot past Casillas. Madrid could not find a way back and Getafe held on for a famous victory. Madrid lose their 100% home record in the league with their first defeat since February 2007.

Barcelona now have all their key players back to full fitness which meant that Frank Rijkaard could rest Deco and Thierry Henry for the visit of Levante to Camp Nou. Leo Messi and Samuel Eto’o gave an exhibition of attacking football and Barça ran out 5-1 winners. Xavi gave the Catalans the lead after 14 minutes before Levante equalized after a stupid hand ball in the area by Zambrotta. Messi restored Barça’s lead before half time and then a second half hat-trick from an explosive Eto’o gave Barça a comfortable win. Click here for a full report from fcbnews.

Villarreal continue in third place after a 1-2 win at Athletic Bilbao. Fernando Llorente gave the home team an early lead after good work from Susaeta, but in the second half Athletic sat back to try and defend the lead which allowed Villarreal to dominate. Guille Franco scored a great equalizer in the 65th minute and then with seven left on the clock Capdevila’s shot took a deflection off Javi Martinez which gave Athletic keeper Armando no chance.

Atletico Madrid followed up their Uefa Cup exit to Bolton with a 3-1 defeat at Osasuna. Atletico found themselves two goals down within five minutes thanks to goals from Kike Sola and Vela. Diego Forlan pulled one back for Atletico with a cracking 30 yard drive on 25 minutes but Osasuna held their nerve and with 15 minutes remaining scored a third through Font. Atletico are still in fourth place but have only taken four points from the last six matches.

Sevilla continue to climb places and are now fifth after thrashing Zaragoza 5-0. Luis Fabiano took his goal tally to 19 with two goals in the first 25 minutes. Zaragoza decided to help by scoring two own goals either side of half time from Ayala and Diogo. Diogo’s miserable day was complete when he received a straight red card in the 53rd minute for a foul on Capel. Sevilla scored their fifth when Keita headed in a corner after 67 minutes. Sevilla have now taken 13 points from the last five games and are looking serious contenders for a Champions League spot.

Espanyol meanwhile continue to slip and are now down to sixth place after losing 2-0 to Deportivo de La Coruña. With Raul Tamudo still out injured Espanyol have taken just three points from their last seven games. Deportivo coach Miguel Angel Lotina gave a start to two wingers, Wilhelmsson and Lafita, and the two of them tore apart the depressed Espanyol team. Coloccini scored Depor’s first from a corner and then the excellent Lafita got the second after 24 minutes. Depor are still in the bottom three but will take heart from this victory for the battle ahead.

Murcia, on the other hand, look sure for the drop after another home defeat, this time to Valladolid. Murcia coach Lucas Alcaraz made five changes to the team but it made little difference. Joseba Llorente scored the only goal of the game just before half time which leaves Alcaraz facing the sack.

Racing Santander returned to winning ways with a deserved 1-0 home win over another contender for a Uefa Cup place, Almeria. Racing’s goal came in the 61st minute when Tchite ran in to shoot past Diego Alves. Almeria ended the game with nine men after late red cards for Cisma and Paunovic.

Valencia played one of their best games since the arrival of Ronald Koeman, but were unable to convert their dominance into a victory. Mata gave them a first half lead at home to Recreativo but a second half equalizer from Martins earned the Andaluz team an undeserved 1-1 draw.

Finally, Mallorca and Betis are both still in relegation danger after they shared the points at the Ono Estadi. Varela gave Mallorca the lead with a shot from outside the area, but Edu equalized for the visitors heading home a cross from Pavone.

Top Six: Real Madrid 56 pts, Barcelona 54, Villarreal 46, Atletico Madrid 41, Sevilla 39, Espanyol 39.

Top Scorers: Luis Fabiano (Sevilla) 19, Diego Milito (Zaragoza) 14, Llorente (Valladolid) 12, Van Nistlerooy (Real Madrid) 12.

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  1. Hugo Steckelmacher 25 February, 2008
  2. Graham Fisher 25 February, 2008
  3. Djoca 25 February, 2008
  4. Hugo Steckelmacher 25 February, 2008
  5. iqnadirshah 26 February, 2008
  6. Soccer Tom 26 February, 2008
  7. yu1mixer 27 February, 2008