Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Five things we learned from La Liga

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On a weekend where La Liga was embarrassed by its failure to adopt goal line technology, there was at least the consolation that the title may not be over by the end of November.

Barcelona’s 1-1 draw at Valencia, overshadowed by Lionel Messi’s goal that wasn’t allowed to stand, maintains the Catalans’ four-point lead at the top.

However, victories for Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid brought the capital duo back to within eight points of the leaders.

Here, AFP Sports looks at five things we learned from La Liga.

Tebas’s goal line gaffe
La Liga’s president Javier Tebas has been keen to splash out on many minor details to improve the image of La Liga games for television viewers, including a range of new camera angles and even threatening to fine teams who didn’t fill stands visible on TV with supporters.

Yet, Tebas has bizarrely been steadfast in his opinion the introduction of goal line technology, used widely across Europe in the Premier League, Bundesliga and Serie A, is too expensive.

His frugalness came at a heavy cost on Sunday night when, in front of a worldwide audience as the top two went head-to-head at Valencia, one of the league’s two marquee players was denied a clear goal as Messi’s shot trickled between Valencia goalkeeper Neto’s legs and over the line.

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“La Liga has the best players in the world and the best league also deserves the best technology,” said Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets, whose sentiments were reflected with the image spread across all the front pages of Spain’s sports papers on Monday.

Barca back to basics
Despite a record breaking start to the season in terms of results, Ernesto Valverde’s Barca had been criticised for failing to convince with their performances.

However, despite dropping points for just the second time this season, Valverde’s men looked more like the Barca of old as they took the ball from Valencia in a dominant first-half display.

And despite the double blow of Messi’s non-goal and Rodrigo putting Valencia in front, the visitors responded like champions as Messi teed up Jordi Alba to equalise eight minutes from time.

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Real make their penalty point
A weekend in which decisions very much favoured the white side of the Real-Barca divide should quieten complaints from Madrid of their supposed harsh treatment so far this season.

Fans at the Bernabeu held up red cards directed towards the Spanish federation’s referees’ chief Victoriano Sanchez Arminio before Saturday’s 3-2 win over Malaga protesting that Real hadn’t been awarded a penalty this season.

Low and behold the spot-kick arrived when Madrid desperately needed one 15 minutes from time as Cristiano Ronaldo ended his month-long La Liga goal drought on the rebound after his penalty had been saved by Roberto.

Malaga also had a goal controversially ruled out as Real again failed to convince against a side in the relegation zone.

Sevilla bounce back for Berizzo
Sevilla’s stunning fightback from 3-0 down to claim a vital 3-3 draw against Liverpool in the Champions League in midweek was quickly forgotten when the club announced on Wednesday coach Eduardo Berizzo has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The Argentine, though, is determined to continue working during his treatment and inspired another momentous comeback at Villarreal on Sunday to keep Sevilla in touch with the top four, just two points behind the Madrid sides.

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Villarreal led 2-0 with just over half an hour remaining, but goals from Clement Leglet, Franco Vazquez and Ever Banega allowed Berizzo to end a terrible week with a some light relief.

Gameiro should be Griezmann’s wingman
Before Kevin Gameiro and Antoine Griezmann both struck twice in Saturday’s 5-0 rout at Levante, Atletico had scored just four times in their previous six La Liga games.

Gameiro is often guilty of missing chances, but there is no doubt Atletico create far more with the threat of the Frenchman’s pace in behind defences.

Moreover, his presence allows Griezmann to drop slightly deeper into his more favoured role behind a main striker.

Gameiro will be sidelined once more once Diego Costa is free to play in January, but until then he should be given a run alongside Griezmann rather than rotated with Fernando Torres, who still hasn’t scored once this season.

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