For Real Madrid, it seems like it never rains but it pours. A light shower in Catalonia didn’t prevent Barcelona from dispatching Celta Vigo 3-0 comfortably, and Atletico Madrid continued their run of ugly wins by overcoming Granada with a solitary goal. For Real, however, a dry, dry day ended in disbelief.
Even before the game against Sevilla had started, the day was a bad one. Sergio Ramos’s appeal to have his red card and subsequent suspension from last week’s El Clasico revoked was turned down. This meant that Pepe’s partner in the centre of defense was a not-completely-fit Raphael Varane. In a usual match, this would not matter – the array of forwards that Real has is quite scary. And the game did start off according to plan, with Ronaldo scoring in the 14th minute with a freekick via a lucky deflection. But then Sevilla did the impossible. They went on to ruin the Los Blancos’s day.
Carlos Bacca immediately equalized, pouncing on a looping ball that the unalert Varane had allowed to bounce and shooting past a despairing dive by Diego Lopez in goal. After that, the home team took the game to Real, pressing them high and not allowing them to break at pace. The teams went in at half-time with the visitors chasing the game, even if they were level as far as the score was concerned.
The half-time team talk is what Carlo Ancelotti is famous for. There is something that Don Carlo says to his troops that magically transforms them into a army hungry for the win. This time, that verve went missing.
A couple of half-chances aside, Real were dominated in the game, and when the goal came, it was one it was completely expected. Ivan Rakitic showed superb skill to hold off three Real players before releasing Bacca, who shrugged off Carvajal’s challenge and shot through Lopez’s legs for the winner.
In Catalonia, Barca maintained their push at the top by dominating Celta Vigo in what must have been a humiliating match for the visitors. Tata Martino rested Xavi, among others, for this match but it hardly made a difference as Fabregas and Iniesta in the centre of midfield pulled the strings, enabling Neymar to pick up a brace sandwiching a Messi goal. An easy 3-0 victory for the Blaugranes. The only dark cloud for Martino’s men is the injury that Victor Valdes has picked up, torn knee ligaments, which will force the goalkeeper to miss the rest of the season and probably miss the World Cup as well.
However, the happiest team on the night was Atletico. An ugly 1-0 victory, where the only highlight was a solitary goal by – you guessed it – Diego Costa enabled Los Colchoneros to pull clear at the top of the La Liga. Diego Simone’s men are now on course to win their first league title since 1994.