La Liga 2012, Week 35: Barcelona Keeps Madrid From Clinching Title

No, the Liga is not over. I mean, we don't even know whether Rayo Vallecano will be in the top half of the table! Plus, you know, Pep Guardiola and stuff.

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La Liga 2012, Week 35: Málaga Stuns Valencia, Moves Into Third Place Tie

This was "the most important game" in Málaga's franchise history, according to Fernando Hierro and the rest of the malagueño front office. And they did not disappoint: they defeated perennial third-place finisher Valencia 1-0 this evening at home, in a game marked by Málaga's grit and desire, and by Valencia's resignation. This result means that the two teams enter the last three matches in the Liga schedule tied for third place, though Valencia remains on top due to goal difference. Not that that matters hugely: the key effect that this will have on Málaga will be their automatic inclusion in next year's Champions League, a rare feet for such a young and newly-created club.

At the outset, Valencia seemed to have the upper hand over a Málaga side that looked nervous as they prepared for their Champions League push. Roberto Soldado was called offsides on a series of tremendous runs; had it not been for a few inches, they would have resulted in a couple of obvious scoring opportunities. In the 14th minute, however, Eliseu broke through Valencia's defense, and lashed a shot off Guaita's goal--while the play came against the run of play initially, it seemed to spark a renaissance for Málaga, who began to push up the field with more authority. Guaita was forced into action on a series of plays directly after the shot off the bar, and then on 27 minutes, Málaga struck. Gámez, streaking up from the right back position, dropped a cross into the center of the area; Camacho, who brilliantly jumped in front of the Valencia defense, knocked the ball in with his chest (or his back--it was unclear, even on replays).

After the goal, Valencia seemed to shrink away from the ball. They no longer looked like the confident, strong side that reached the semifinals of the Europa League. They looked like a team afraid of their predicament, scared of finishing out of the Champions League. And Málaga grew, spreading themselves over the field, attacking with intent.

The game would keep this dynamic, more or less, until the 61st minute, when Feghouli, Valencia's right midfielder, dropped an elbow on Eliseu and was rewarded with his second yellow card. After that, Valencia was never coming back. Málaga attacked, defended well on the counter, and was rewarded with a win in the most important match in their side's history.

A well deserved win for an exciting, up and coming side.

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La Liga 2012, Week 35: Despite Big Scorelines, Early Games Leave Table Unchanged

Big scorelines punctuated this afternoon's action in Spain, with each match featuring at least three goals (despite most having none at halftime), though none of the results changed the composition of the league table drastically. Real Sociedad dismantled an already-descended Racing Santander squad 3-0 in Anoeta, Espanyol fell to Sporting Gijón 0-3 in Cornellà, Levante blasted past Granada 3-1 in Valencia, and Mallorca destroyed Getafe 0-3 in Madrid.

Real Sociedad 3-0 Racing Santander

Well, there's not that much more to say about this match: Racing Santander, facing their second Basque team in two weeks, decided to ply essentially the same game against la Real as they did against Athletic. That is, they decided to not try and look pathetic. There's really not much else that can be said: Racing are suffering through their last few weeks in Primera for at least a year, and they have (a little) reason to be mopey. Greizmann opened the scoring in the 47th minute for la Real, and you could tell it was over; he added another goal in the 69th minute, and Agirretxe tacked one on in the 83rd (his celebration seemed exceedingly excessive, considering the circumstances), but the match was over as soon as the referee blew for kick off.

Espanyol 0-3 Sporting Gijón

In a result that probably means nothing for either side, Sporting Gijón grabbed three unlikely points from Cornellà this afternoon, dismantling Espanyol 0-3. Espanyol will not fall any lower than around where they are in the table, so this match--and those that follow--will mean nothing to them until they play Barcelona next week; on the other hand, Sporting are looking to crawl out of the six point relegation hole they're in, and this result is a good step in the right direction. Colunga scored on 47 minutes to bring the visitors ahead, and they managed to tack on two more, in the 70th and 80th minutes, off the boots of Tejo and Bilic respectively.

Levante 3-1 Granada

In what was probably the closest match of the afternoon, Levante squeezed past Granada 3-1 (and into European contention--for now) thanks to goals from Koné, Xavi Torres, and Valdo. Koné opened the scoring for the Valencianos, but Granada came back to tie on 66 minutes thanks to a brilliant play from Ighalo. The tie would only last about six more minutes, however, until Xavi Torres found the back of the net in the 73rd minute. Granada pressed valiantly until the end, but were ultimately undone by Valdo in the 80th minute. This was a fantastic result for Levante, who look set to at least make a final push into European contention this season--a shocking result from a shocking side.

Getafe 1-3 Mallorca

I'm going to preface this recap by saying that this might be the least important of the three matches today. Mallorca and Getafe, previously cemented next to each other in the middle of the table, remain essentially in the same places (flipped), despite Mallorca's destructive victory in Madrid. Getafe never seemed like they were in the game, as they dropped to 0-1 in the 30th minute thanks to a smart play form Victor Casadesús, who slipped in behind the defense to nod the ball in. They then totally fell apart in the second half, conceding goals to Alfaro in the 68th minute on a play that seemed very similar to the first goal, and then to Hemed in the 78th minute. Their only redemption was a strike in the 92nd minute, long after the result was already in the bag. A bad result for a Getafe side that seemed not to care either way.

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