Last Week in La Liga

By Jake Appleman

Adding sight to Spain’s top flight,
Because it’s not beautiful
Unless you’ve seen it.

Last year I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the first Madrid derby of the La Liga season. (Special shout-out to fax machine faxing machine Ben Osborne.) Real beat Atlético 3-0. What I remember most was the how crazy the fans were. Here’s an excerpt of something I wrote about that game:

Skipping, chanting and drunken debauchery is all the rage outside Vicente Calderon. Cops in riot gear! The crowd is raucous prior to kick-off. The fans behind the Real goal bounce up and down. Banners are resplendent. There’s a huge banner that roughly translates to Real Madrid=Bourgeoisie. Just above it is a bigger banner that features a goat, or is it a sheep (?), wearing a Real jersey. Something goes off in the crazed section behind the Real goal and smoke billows upwards. Apparently a normal occurrence, seeing as nobody is doing anything.

This year the first derby was held at Santiago Bernabeu, and you better believe I woke up to catch it at Nevada Smith’s. (If anyone knows another soccer bar in NYC that shows La Liga, please let me know.)

Real Madrid 1 Atlético Madrid 1 Dutch highlights backed by Carlos Santana’s “Oye Como Va.”

– My notes from the game.

  • Atlético dominated most of the first half. Miguel Mista finished well after receiving a beautiful headed flick from Maxi Rodriguez that ricocheted slightly off of Sergio Ramos. It was not a good day for the 14 year old looking Ramos. He saw red later in the match. The Spanish papers criticized Fernando Torres for diving the day after.
  • Working hard in the midfield, Guti goaded the Rojiblanca into four cards and more yellow than the sun on a partly cloudly day. (Bonus highlight footage of all the fouls committed on Guti to the tune of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”.) As Guti worked well in Real’s midfield, the camera periodically panned to a pretty but sad David Beckham. Maybe a contract extension wouldn’t be the best thing for Becks under new drill seargent, Fabio Capello. Becks and his finely gelled ‘do sat next to Ronaldo, who was finally fit for the first time since the World Cup ended. That’s 11 billion dollars, I thought to myself, before feeling the urgent need to order another beer. Then the camera panned to an out of touch–literally and figuratively–Robinho, and I felt bad for him.
  • Jose Antonio Reyes brought some EPL flavor to the match, easily out-roughhousing everyone else on the pitch. Though to be fair, this was only the case because the Atlético players took turns sending Guti to the dirt.
  • Speaking of Guti, he sent a beautiful ball to Raul for the equalizer. Knowing that the ball was placed on a platter and that all of Guti’s hard work and turf eating had finally paid off, how did Real Madrid legend celebrate? By pointing to the back of his jersey. Pretty sweet for a dude who hasn’t scored in a La Liga game in nearly a year. Some perspective: The last time Raul scored a goal in La Liga I was inhaling tapas and bouncing around discotecas in Madrid…The Boston Red Sox were the defending world champions…Kevin Federline was just a trophy husband, not a trophy husband and aspiring rapper.
  • Also worth mentioning about the Raul goal: Rojiblanca keeper Leo Franco hadn’t seen a shot all match. I’m tempted to argue that Iker Casillas would have at least gotten a glove to it.
  • Argentinean prodigy Sergio Aguero came on for Mista in the second half and looked very good. Aside from getting way too fancy by trying to pop one over the head of Iker Casillas’ head on Atlético’s best chance for a winner, he lived up to his billing in his Bernabeu debut. The Guardian’s Sid Lowe wisely argues Aguero’s screwup coast Atleti the match: “As Juanma Trueba put it in this morning’s AS, it was so easy to score that it was like Aguero had stepped into a “self-service harem”. There were so many options to score, but a scoop wasn’t one of them. A scoop, though, was what Aguero chose – and as the ball floated away harmlessly, so did Atlético’s chance to win a first derby in seven years.”
  • Mariano Pernia, the most expensive defender in Soccernet’s La Liga fantasy challenge, finally played his first game in red and white. He was solid but still needs to find his top form.
  • Ronaldo entered and did nothing.
  • Atleti deserved more than a point, though they currently sit an impressive fifth after five games–especially impressive considering they’ve already played three out of the four best teams in Valencia, Sevilla and Real Madrid.

Valencia 4 Nastic 0

A David Villa double led Valencia to the lopsided victory. With issues popping up at Barca and Real, Valencia appear to be emerging as a potential favorite.

Barcelona 3 Athletic Bilbao 1 (Highlights in Catalan.)

Barca wins their first game without Samuel Eto’o, who will be out five months. Javier Saviola and Eidur Gudjohnsen come up big.

Villareal 2 Mallorca 1

Diego Forlan bags an easy double to lead the Yellow Submarine. After a disappointing start to the season, Villareal appear to be finding their form. The best part of this clip is the golazo by Mallorca’s Jankovic about three minutes in. Also of note: The Argentinean commentator on this highlight clip is rolling his r’s like a champ! Although I guess it does come easier when you’re a native speaker. Sweet accent too: In Argentina it was My-shork-a versus Vi-sha-ray-al. Che, BOLUDO!

Other Results:

Sevilla 1 – 0 Getafe
Zaragoza 2 – 2 Levante
Deportivo 2 – 0 Real Sociedad
Recreativo 2 – 0 Betis
Racing 1 – 1 Celta
Espanyol 0 – 0 Osasuna