Youssef El-Arabi

Spain roundup: Top three all win as Ronaldo, Costa, Messi shine

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There are no style points on the board, though goal differential is close. By those measures, Barcelona made a statement regarding the La Liga title race as the top three all picked up wins but Barca’s was a stomping.

Lionel Messi became Barcelona’s all-time leading goal scorer when he slotted home the second goal of his hat trick in the Blaugrana’s 7-0 shellacking of 15th place Osasuna. Click the link and watch the video if only for Andres Iniesta’s left-footed stunner to make the score 3-0.

Barca was Barca again, boosting their league-best goal differential to 59. Perhaps  buoyed by topping Manchester City mid-week, it was certainly a different side than the club dispatched by Valladolid last weekend. Cristian Tello, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez also scored for Barcelona, which had a 3-0 at the break.

Real Madrid won 1-0 at relegation-threatened Malaga thanks to a 23rd minute marker by Cristiano Ronaldo, but it wasn’t close to their finest. The club’s unbeaten run in La Liga is now at 30 matches, and perhaps they were looking ahead to their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg with Schalke on Tuesday… but who are we kidding? They are up 6-1. It was just an off day for the club whose goal differential sits at 51.

Atletico stayed three back of Real and a point ahead of Barca with a 1-0 win of its own. Diego Costa put home a David Villa pass for the match’s only goal, as Atletico stayed unbeaten at home this season. It was a nice bit of pass and pace, as Costa simply outraced Espanyol defender Diego Colotto for the ball.

Elsewhere

  • Getafe 3-3 Granada — The goals started in the sixth minute and kept coming all night as Getafe let three leads disappear. Moroccan forward Youssef El Arabi bagged a brace in the comeback(s).
  • Levante 0-1 Celta Vigo — Nolito’s 19th minute goal moved the visiting side five points clear of the drop.
  • Rayo Vallecano 3-1 Almeria — Joaquin Larrivey’s brace vaulted Rayo out of the relegation zone and placed the visitors La Liga future in peril
  • Elche 0-0 Real Betis — Full credit to Betis, who keeps picking up points despite an unlikely bottom position nine points from safety. Elche carried 64 percent possession in the draw.
  • Sevilla 4-1 Valladolid — Kevin Gameiro stayed hot, striking twice, while Ivan Rakitic and Diogo Figueiras also netted for Sevilla. Javi Guerra scored late for the visitors.
  • Real Sociedad 1-0 Valencia — Sociedad is within five points of a Champions League spot thanks to Imanol Agirretxe’s 61st minute marker.
  • Villarreal vs. Athletic — Monday

Standings

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Real Madrid 28 22 4 2 77 26 51 12-0-1 10-4-1 70
Atlético Madrid 28 21 4 3 64 21 43 12-3-0 9-1-3 67
Barcelona 28 21 3 4 81 22 59 13-0-1 8-3-3 66
Athletic 27 15 6 6 50 31 19 10-3-1 5-3-5 51
Real Sociedad 28 13 7 8 49 39 10 9-3-2 4-4-6 46
Villarreal 27 13 5 9 47 33 14 7-4-3 6-1-6 44
Sevilla 28 12 8 8 51 43 8 7-3-4 5-5-4 44
Valencia 28 10 6 12 39 39 0 7-3-4 3-3-8 36
Espanyol 28 10 6 12 32 34 -2 7-2-5 3-4-7 36
Levante 28 9 9 10 26 35 -9 5-5-4 4-4-6 36
Celta Vigo 28 9 6 13 33 39 -6 3-6-5 6-0-8 33
Granada 28 9 4 15 27 39 -12 5-1-8 4-3-7 31
Elche 28 7 9 12 24 40 -16 5-5-5 2-4-7 30
Málaga 28 7 8 13 26 36 -10 5-2-7 2-6-6 29
Osasuna 28 8 5 15 24 48 -24 5-2-6 3-3-9 29
Rayo Vallecano 28 9 2 17 32 62 -30 5-0-9 4-2-8 29
Getafe 28 7 7 14 26 45 -19 4-6-5 3-1-9 28
Valladolid 28 5 11 12 30 48 -18 4-6-3 1-5-9 26
Almería 28 7 5 16 27 52 -25 4-4-5 3-1-11 26
Betis 28 4 7 17 23 56 -33 4-3-7 0-4-10 19

Africa Cup of Nations: Final product fails scoreless Angola, Morocco

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The surface shows a match that looks similar to the Cup of Nations’ opener, but as opposed to the 0-0 South Africa played out with Cape Verde, Saturday’s second match continually teased goals. From Morocco’s strong start to the last chance generated by Angola, Group A’s second game could have had multiple goals. But with neither team able to convert, Angola and Morocco ended scoreless, both teams entering into the four-way tie at the top of their group.

It was the first time the Cup of Nations has opened with two scoreless draws, surprising consider the quality of play. This wasn’t the stodgy match many saw take place between South Africa and Cape Verde. A flowing game that saw each team able to take shots at the other’s defense never produced that final piece of execution needed to break through.

At the onset, the game looked set to play out like the opener, with Morocco’s early energy leading to a period of control. Dominant play using the Lions’ speed advantage on the flanks allowed Morocco to continuously get into the final third, with an early chance for Mounir El Hamdaoui nearly giving them an early lead.

But Morocco could never crafted a quality final ball, leading all their attacks to lose steam in front of goal. After their defense adjusted and Angola started winning more midfield battles, the Antelopes came into the match. By the end of the period, Angola was controlling the game, generating a number of set piece chances before the halftime whistle.

After Moroccan star Younès Belhanda came on in the second half (a lack of fitness confining the Montpellier midfielder to the bench at the opening kickoff), the Lions seemed to have the midfield maestro that could take utilized their attackers. But just as in the first half, the end product never arrived.

A late ball overhit for forward Youssef El-Arabi was emblematic Belhanda’s half. What could have been a chance that took three crucial points for Morocco turned into an easy scoop for Angolan keeper Lama, El-Arabi left to cut of his run as a through ball ends for naught.

The Antelopes had their own late chance when Mateus targeted Manucho with a near post cross from the byline. Or perhaps the ball was trying to find substitute Guilherme. Both made the same run, both arrived at the same time, and while the cross seemed destined for Manucho, Angola was left with nothing as the two attackers threw each other off.

While for much of the second half each side seemed capable of scoring, the final whistle left Morocco wondering how their effort never found a goal. From the opening whistle they outran the Antelopes, but their fluidity through the middle third became bogged down as they approached goal. Even after Angola came into the game, their speed out of their half meant they were one well-executed counter away from taking full points.

Perhaps that’s why Angola showed signs of relief after the match, their players quickly turning the to crowd to clap to their fans as multiple Moroccans sat on the field. For a team that has ambitions to go far in the tournament, the Angolans came precariously close to giving another team full points.

Because they had their own chances at the end, Gustavo Ferrin’s players may convince themselves they outplayed Morocco, but Angola should not feel comfortable with how close they came to letting Morocco control this match.

EARLIER: Cape Verda takes point from hosts South Africa