David Ramos

La Liga 2012, Week 11: Athletic bests Sevilla; Barcelona, Real Madrid on the Road

Last year, Real Madrid lost a (relatively) shocking 1-0 dustup against a battle-hardened Levante side in Valencia. This year, los blancos head into their matchup with the defensive warriors lead by coaching sensation Juan Ignacio Martínez on the ropes. Will José Mourinho and company be able to tear down the Levante wall?

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Barça Walk; Athletic Squeak Past Sevilla

Mallorca 2-4 Barcelona

Lionel Messi is pretty much God. Or that's the way the Catalan press has been pitching him for the past few years. And today, for the infinitieth time, he answered suffering Barça fans prayers with a magical display.

Barcelona came into Mallorca leading Real Madrid in the horse race by eight points--more than enough to feel nice and comfy. But they lost over the week, a tough, draining match at Celtic in Glasgow in the Champions League. Celtic found Chelsea's rhythm from last season against Tito Vilanova's men, boxing them in and striking quickly on the counter, and the Scots had the same success--a defense-heavy 2-1 victory.

So things weren't looking great for Barça (and by "not looking great" I really just mean "still really good just not as perfect as before that game"--let's not get carried away). They needed a win against Mallorca to righten the not-really-wobbly-but-c'mon-there's-no-narrative-here ship. And that's where Messi took over.

The first half was all Barça, with a fantastic goal from Xavi off a free kick in the 28th, a relatively lucky goal from Messi in the 44th (Mallorca keeper Aouate was conspicuously absent on the play) and a slick goal from Tello in the 48th. But Mallorca wouldn't die--they came out of the gate slinging, abandoning all pretense, and slashed into Barcelona for two quick goals. 2-3.

Then it was time for Messi. Right when his team looked most like they were going to drop a three-goal lead, he struck: a quick little run, a brilliant shot, and Aouate was caught again. The goal was a hammer blow to the Mallorca faithful. And an act of God for the culés watching at home.

Athletic Bilbao 2-1 Sevilla

I didn't see this one coming. I honestly thought that Sevilla was the team to beat in this match, with more momentum and a tighter group chemistry. I was wrong. Athletic dominated Sevilla in the first half, scoring both of their goals. They began the process of apologizing to their fans with that half--the Bilbao faithful have not had much to cheer about this season--and they managed to hang on when Sevilla came roaring back.

At the beginning of the second half, things felt a bit different. Sevilla had come out with a renewed sense of urgency, and were dominating possession and most of the play. The confident Athletic from the first half had been replaced by a worried-looking team ready to do battle to preserve their lead--but not to stretch it.

Ander Herrera's red card allowed Sevilla to really inject some fear into the game, and, after Alvaro Negredo's penalty goal, everything seemed up for grabs. But, the narrative wouldn't change again, as Gorka Iraizoz made save after save for Athletic, and finally, at long last, there were cheers in San Mamés.


Mallorca could be Barca's sacrificial lamb

After their stunning mid-week defeat to Celtic, Barcelona will look to take our their frustration against struggling Mallorca

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