La Liga Week 26: Atletico Madrid, Espanyol Take Home Important Victories

In a week filled with controversies surrounding Spanish referees--from Gerard Piqué's comments about premeditated decisions, to ex-Barcelona Vice President Godall's suggestion that Guardiola and company treat referees better to garner some favor, to referees not calling two penalties on Real Madrid in the last seconds of their 2-3 win over Betis--today's matches between Atletico Madrid and Granada, and Espanyol and Rayo Vallecano did little to throw water on the fire.

Atlético put on a show against a Granada side that lacked any punch offensively--los rojiblancos dominated the ball, and caused some havoc in Granada's back line, but couldn't seem to score. It wasn't Simeone's Atletico's best match of the year, but it certainly wasn't their worst; and what they lacked in subtlety on the ball they made up for in physicality and luck. Atleti scored their first goal in the 38th minute, when Miranda blasted in a bouncing ball off a botched corner by Koke. Minutes before, referee Mateu Lahoz had cut off a promising Granada attack by calling a handball on attacking midfielder Henrique--replays showed that this was not the correct call.

Granada were badly hurt by the goal. They tried to react for the rest of the match, but had a very complicated time moving out of Atleti's midfield; both sides had a couple chances in the second half, but nothing of interest until the 84th minute. Henrique, the player who had already been incorrectly penalized for a non-handball, went to ground to try to dispossess one of the Atleti players; Mateu Lahoz showed him a direct red card, an extremely harsh choice given the way the game had progressed.

Minutes later, Radamel Falcao scored to end the match, after a fantastic run by Juanfran. The goal was pretty much incidental, but I like the way that Falcao celebrates, so I guess there's that.

Final Score: Atlético Madrid 2-0 Granada.

Espanyol thrashed upstart Rayo Vallecano Sunday afternoon, to lay claim to one of the higher spots in the classification. Espanyol had seemingly lost their mojo, after a series of mediocre results that was capped off with a brutal loss at Real Madrid last week; however, they came out strong against a Rayo side that looked out of their depth.

Uche scored the first goal within three minutes, when he headed home a fantastic cross from the right side. Rayo goalkeeper Joel looked like he could have had a play on the ball, but he was inexplicably turned to stone (as they say in Spain) as the ball flew by him.

Coutinho sentenced the game only six minutes later after a brilliantly played quick foul in the midfield. Sergio García, long a favorite of mine, beat the entire Rayo side in midfield, then ceded to Coutinho at the last second. The game would only get more open from there, as Espanyol attacked relentlessly, and would go on to score three more times.

Ex-Espanyol forward (and Real Madrid legend) Raul Tamudo would write the footnote of the night: his goal in the 54th minute (to make it 4-1 to Espanyol) was his first in Espanyol's new stadium Cornellà-El Prat. He's now the only player to have scored at all three Espanyol stadiums (Sarriá, Montjuic, and Cornellà).

Final Score: Espanyol 5-1 Rayo Vallecano

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