La Liga Roundup, Mar. 14
Gonzalo Higuain scored three goals and Cristiano Ronaldo struck the
other as Real Madrid beat Valladolid 4-1, while Lionel Messi also
scored a hat-trick in Barcelona’s 3-0 win against 10-man Valencia
in the Spanish league on Sunday.
Both teams stay level at the top of the league on 65 points,
with Madrid leading on goal difference. Valencia is third on 47
At Valladolid’s Jose Zorilla Stadium, Ronaldo scored his 15th
league goal of the season in the 28th minute, placing a direct free
kick into the top right-hand corner.
In the 45th, Higuain volleyed in a long pass from Rafael Van
der Vaart, who was replacing the injured Kaka.
The Argentina striker then ran on to a header from Ronaldo,
stroking the ball past goalkeeper Justo Villar in the 58th minute
before completing his hat-trick by tapping in from close range
after Villar failed to hold onto a shot.
Madrid’s Raul Albiol scored an own goal when goalkeeper Iker
Casillas’ clearance rebounded off him into the net.
“They’re two brave, proud players who want to win,” said
Madrid director general Jorge Valdano of Ronaldo and Higuain. “This
is what makes them the best in the world.”
In Barcelona, Messi controlled a pass from Xavi Hernandez on
the edge of the area and dribbled past three men before firing in a
left-footed shot in the 56th minute. Things went from bad to worse
for Valencia when Hedwiges Maduro was sent off in the 70th for his
second yellow card after a challenge on Messi.
Barcelona’s Argentina forward struck again in the 81st minute
when he controlled a long pass on the right, cut inside and shot
past Cesar Sanchez. Messi’s 22nd league goal of the season came two
minutes later when he ran on to Thierry Henry’s pass to tap the
“Today Leo deserves all the plaudits because the game was
very tight but he managed to crack the midfield,” said Barcelona
president Joan Laporta. “Valencia played very well, but we have a
great team and we had to work.”
Madrid still looked traumatized by its midweek elimination
from the Champions League at the hands of Lyon in the opening
minutes and struggled to keep the ball.
Relegation-threatened Valladolid took a physical approach and
Asier del Horno and Carlos Lazaro were both booked for early
challenges. Ronaldo repeatedly complained to the referee about the
However, the Madrid midfield gradually took control, with
Esteban Granero, Xabi Alonso and Lassana Diarra playing alongside
Van der Vaart.
Sergio Ramos drew a block from Villar in the 25th and Van der
Vaart had a shot saved in the 42nd.
Valladolid also looked capable of scoring and Casillas had to
dive to stop a Vitor Hugo Gomes shot which then bounced off the
Valladolid had a penalty appeal waved away after Ramos
appeared to handle the ball in the area and referee Mejuto Gonzalez
booked Nauzet Aleman for complaining about the decision.
With victory ensured, Raul Gonzalez, Jose Maria “Guti”
Gutierrez and Fernando Gago came on for Higuain, Granero and
“The win was very important given what happened earlier in
the week,” said Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini, whose future at the
club looks doubtful after the Lyon debacle. “Each day the team is
improving its potential and the players prove to me every week that
they are heading in the direction I want.”
In the Camp Nou Stadium, Valencia striker David Villa was
absent due to injury, while for Barcelona, Bojan Krkic replaced the
suspended Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack, playing alongside Messi and
Coach Pep Guardiola had to watch from the stands after his
dismissal during last weekend’s 2-2 draw against Almeria for
Valencia pressured from the start and Barcelona’s midfield
trio of Sergio Busquets, Hernandez and Andres Iniesta struggled to
find their usual passing rhythm.
Valencia created several early chances, with Jordi Alba
heading over from a Luis Miguel Brito cross in the fifth. Alba was
put through again later in the half although he fired a weak shot
at Victor Valdes.
The goalkeeper had to clear the ball from the feet of
Alejandro Dominguez three meters (yards) from goal in the 30th
At the other end, Sanchez had to dive to stop Gabrielo
Milito’s header from an Hernandez corner in the 22nd.
With Barca’s midfield struggling, Messi was clearly the
team’s best attacking option and after half an hour he robbed the
ball on the right and his shot went just wide of the post.
Sanchez did well to get a hand to Messi’s shot as the striker
charged in from the right moments later and in the 40th Messi burst
through the Valencia defense again before passing to Rodriguez,
whose shot went wide.
Just before halftime Manuel Fernandes came on for the injured
David Albelda, who had done well to stifle the Barcelona midfield.
During the break Thierry Henry replaced Krkic.
The change nearly paid off immediately as the France striker
crossed for Messi, whose first time shot went just wide.
Nicola Zigic should have equalized in the 68th when he
latched on to a ball behind the Barcelona defense and Valdes
anticipated his low shot.
Maduro’s expulsion helped tip the balance and Barcelona
dominated the latter stages of the game.
Also Sunday, Joseba Llorente and Damian Escudero scored as
Villarreal beat Xerez 2-0.
Llorente gathered a pass from Ariel Ibagaza in the 32nd
minute and shot low past goalkeeper Jose Maria Jimenez. Escudero
sealed the win with a superbly struck shot from outside the area in
Villarreal is ninth in the standings on 36 points. Xerez
stays bottom on 15 points after its 17th league loss of the season.
Also Sunday, Tenerife beat Espanyol 4-1, with two goals from
Juan Francisco “Nino” Martinez, and one each from Ricardo “Richi”
Perez and Alejandro Alfaro. Joan Verdu scored a consolation goal
Fernando Soriano scored as Almeria beat Malaga 1-0 and Racing
Santander drew 0-0 with Zaragoza.
On Monday, it’s Atletico Madrid vs. Osasuna.
On Saturday, fourth-place Sevilla drew 1-1 with Deportivo La
Coruna, fifth-place Mallorca lost 3-0 to Getafe and Sporting Gijon
drew 0-0 with Athletic Bilbao.