Barcelona restored its five-point lead at the top of the La Liga table thanks to a 3-1 victory over Leganes on Sunday.
Ousmane Dembele opened the scoring, poking a right-footed effort off the inside of the post and in just beyond the half-hour mark. Leganes, meanwhile, owned just one shot through the first half. They visitors at the Camp Nou managed to draw level through Martin Braithwaite in the 57th minute as Allan Nyom delivered a brilliant long-ball down the right to Youssef En-Nesyri who crossed for Braithwaite on the doorstep.
Luis Suarez restored Barcelona’s lead 14 minutes later, but it was all thanks to some Lionel Messi magic. The four-time Ballon d’Or winner ripped a brilliant curler from outside the top of the box that forced a spectacular save from Ivan Cuellar, but he only barely got to the shot, popping it up into the air and falling right at the feet of Suarez who tapped in. Messi would get his own in stoppage time to kill off the game, working a back-and-forth with Jordi Alba before finding space near the penalty spot for an easy finish.
Overall, Barcelona held 72% possession and out-shot Leganes 15-5. The win put Barcelona at 46 points at the top of the table, five above Atletico Madrid and 10 clear of Real Madrid.
Elsewhere, Real Betis earned a big three points, keeping them alive in the crowded Champions League race. Sergio Canales scored a penalty in the 94th minute to win 3-2 over Girona. Both teams held leads at one point in the match, as Cristian Tello put Betis in front just 12 minutes in before Girona took control on goals by 21-year-old Aleix Garcia and 31-year-old Seydou Doumbia before halftime. After the break, Lorenzo Morón brought the game back level, a scoreline which held until stoppage time as Canales powerfully deposited the penalty into the lower left-hand corner after Douglas Luiz had fouled Giovani lo Celso.
The win for Betis pushes them up to 7th in the table on 29 points, with fourth placed Sevilla just four points ahead at 33, and Real Madrid in third on 36 points.
Athletic Bilbao and Villareal both settled for a disappointing point in a 1-1 draw. Karl Toko Ekambi rescued the draw for Villareal after Jaume Costa put one in his own net early in the first half. Still, either side would have preferred the win in the crowded relegation battle. Athletic moved to 13th on 23 points with the draw, while Villareal is stuck in 19th on 18 points.
Levante earned a big 2-0 home win over Real Valladolid thanks to goals by Coke and Roger Marti, each coming at the end of a half. The victory pushed them to 26 points, sliding them into 10th place.
Rayo Vallecano was minutes away from a big win that would have brought them out of the relegation zone, but Brazilian striker Willian Jose scored in the 82nd minute to rescue a point for Real Sociedad and leave Rayo in 18th on 20 points.
Manchester City made — and failed in — bids for multiple central midfielders this summer, and appear resigned to the idea that they’ll be unable to sign another of their targets before the transfer window closes on Thursday.
Pep Guardiola and Co., struck out on now-Chelsea midfielder Jorginho, among others, leading them to a not-so-terrible backup plan: registering 20-year-old Douglas Luiz, who was signed from Vasco da Gama for $13 million before immediately being loaned to La Liga side Girona (also owned by City Football Group) last summer. The only problem: Luiz might not qualify for a work permit, given his lack of call-ups to the Brazilian national team and his lack of a high enough profile to qualify as an exceptional talent — quotes from the Guardian:
“We want him to stay but he does not have a work permit yet so we will try to convince the federation to allow him to stay. I think he has real potential to play with us and improve with us. We saw in pre-season against Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund that he is at a good level. It depends on him and us. The club wants him to stay and he wants to stay but it depends on the work permit.
“He’s ready to play, that’s why we want the permit. We ask for the work permit because we believe he can play with us, otherwise we would not be asking.”
Whether or not Luiz qualifies for a work permit and can be registered — or if he turns out to be a quality player — his situation is just another benefit of the spending power possessed my Man City. How many other clubs in the world can make a “down payment” of that size without any idea or likelihood the player will ever be able to actually play for the club? The answer is, obviously, not many.
That no doubt should earn plenty of good will, but he boasts another kind of history on his resume now after a seismic upset loss to new boys Girona.
Real has slipped eight points behind Barcelona and four behind Valencia after a 2-1 decision at Girona on Sunday (Perhaps just as remarkable, Girona pulls into 11th with the win).
Consider that Girona had never played in the top flight before this season and the incredibly tense political atmosphere between the Spanish capital in Madrid and independence-craving Catalonia. Yep, this is a big, big deal.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will take special glee in the decision, as the ex-Barcelona manager and big time Catalonia supporter supplied several players to Girona on loan. The status of Sunday’s match was once in question due to Catalan’s desire for a referendum on independence
Guardiola recently supported jailed Catalan separatists in Spain, while Real has long been associated with the Spanish crown since earning its royal moniker in the early 20th century.
Isco deposited a first half rebound of a Cristiano Ronaldo shot to make it 1-0, but Girona struck twice in five second half minutes through ex-Middlesbrough attacker Cristhian Stuani and Cristian Portu, the latter assisted by Maffeo.
Real also had a late Lucas Vazquez goal ruled out.
At almost any other club, you’d shrug your shoulders at the bad luck and the hands of time.
At Real Madrid, however, you have to wonder whether mercurial leader Florentino Perez is itching to make a change.