A brand new feature on this website is the introduction of weekly & fortnightly columns focusing on various leagues, countries and regions across the World. Adam Gray here documents the latest talking points in Spanish football.
Death of Deportivo supporter blights the weekend’s action
Spanish football is left mourning the death of Deportivo La Coruna fan Jimmy Romero who had to be pulled from the Manzanares River close to Atletico Madrid’s Calderon stadium, where Atletico beat Deportivo 2-0 in a match that became a mere footnote to the violence that marred it. Eleven other people suffered injuries while there were reports that over 200 people were involved in an organised fight that took place about an hour before Sunday’s kick-off.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone said the trouble was a social problem and his club president Enrique Cerezo would say it “had nothing to do with football”. A local politician Cristiano Cifuentes called it an “isolated event” that the police, kept at 200-strong because it was seen as a low-risk game, could not have foreseen.
Meanwhile, Spain’s professional football league (LFP) said they wanted to postpone the game but failed to contact the Spanish football federation in time. Media service AS would count that 11 people have died at La Liga games since 1982 and with the passing of Romero, should come the realisation that the Spanish football authorities, instead of being quick to pass responsibility, must now take the safety of travelling supporters more seriously to avoid any more.
The game did go ahead though and Deportivo manager Victor Fernandez would move his team to a new 5-3-2 with the intention of containing Atletico, but Simeone’s men would score their 17th set-piece goal of the season through Saul Niguez to break the deadlock. Though centre-half Sidnei would offer stiff resistance in an impressive display at the back, Depor would lack any attacking threat and would only muster 3 shots. Arda Turan would make the result comfortable in the second half. Mario Mandzukic, who built on his midweek hat-trick against Olympiakos, was brilliant again and is proving to be a more than able replacement for Diego Costa in attack.
Though Jimmy Romero should have been watching, the fact he wasn’t ought to wake Spanish football up.
Real Madrid could do with a rest
Real Madrid made it a club record 16 wins on Saturday evening with a 1-2 victory at Malaga, though it was a far from convincing display and not in-keeping with their recent brand of excellence. German midfielder Toni Kroos said after their Champions win over Basel on Wednesday that he was “tired”, but he played in La Rosaleda anyways, without Luka Modric but alongside Isco and James Rodriguez, both of whom struggled to have the same influence they have had over the past couple of weeks. Isco would then get himself sent-off to stretch Carlo Ancelotti’s squad options further.
Madrid were still the better side, doubling Malaga’s shot count of 12 and also edging them out for successful tackles and aerial challenges, which left Ancelotti praising the “attitude” and “sacrifice” of his team for digging in when they had to. The front 3 of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema (who both scored) and Cristiano Ronaldo (who assisted both of their goals) were superb, though it shouldn’t fail to mask a subdued display, or the need for Ancelotti, still unwilling to pick Asier Illaramendi and hindered by Sami Khedira’s uncertainty, to freshen up his squad.
Sevilla turning the Sanchez Pijuan into a fortress
Sevilla, together with Atletico Madrid, are the only two unbeaten sides at home in the division and only the top 3 can better the 16 goals Unai Emery’s team have scored at home. They hit another 5 at home to Granada, with again Ever Benega and Carlos Bacca, who helped himself to 2 goals, linking up well. The midfield base of Stephane Mbia, who scored, and Grzegorz Krychowiak, who claimed an assist, were also good as Sevilla returned to form after failing to win in their last 3 games.
Granada were poor however, with mistakes from Manuel Iturra and goalkeeper Roberto leading to goals and with striker Youssef El-Arabi the only visiting player to emerge from the game with any real credit. They have now gone 9 games without a win and are the lowest scorers in the division with just 7 from 13 games. Manager Joaquin Caparros may be running out of time to turn it around.
Eibar get lucky at unfortunate Celta
Last week Celta Vigo would have 15 shots at Rayo Vallecano and hit the woodwork twice but would still lose 0-1, this week they would have 29 shots to Eibar’s 8, dominate possession by 69.3% to 30.7% and would still lose 0-1. Michael Krohn-Dehli would hit the bar for the home side while Xabier Irureta made some good saves in the Eibar goal, though it was a well-drilled performance from Gaizka Garitano’s outfit who move back into the top-half and on course for a second year in La Liga, what would be a superb achievement on the league’s smallest budget, and it will surely win Garitano a few admirers from around the continent.
Talent Radar Player of the Week: Jose Gimenez (Atletico Madrid)
With Miranda out injured, Gimenez is stepping in alongside Diego Godin to make it an all-Uruguayan centre-half pairing and the 19 year old didn’t look out of place against his senior partner against Deportivo. Gimenez would be a dominant presence in the air winning 6 headers while he made 2 important tackles to preserve a clean sheet for Diego Simeone and his team.
It was Gimenez’s 3 appearance for Atletico this year and with an average pass rate of 44.3 per game and a passing success rate of 88.7%, he is proving himself to be an assured player of the ball as well as a solid one when defending it. His emergence into the team has made the loss of Toby Alderwiereld, now on loan at Southampton, barely noticed.
Written by Adam Gray
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