Posts Tagged ‘ Villarreal USA ’

Morbo Minute–Season Review

I have been getting deeper and deeper into La Liga over the last couple of years.  This season I dedicated myself to following the league and writing a weekly recap, which I posted at this blog.  Also, El Centrocampista graciously allowed me to publish my thoughts at their site on occasion.  So I thought I would take a couple of minutes and run through some of the story lines that appealed to me from the recently completed season.

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It’s cliché to start with the Big Two but I have to.  What a season for Real Madrid.  Going into the season I felt that Los Merengues would win the league as a combination of Mourinho, drive from the players, and fatigue in the FCB camp would allow Los Blancos to reclaim the title.  I was proven right (for once) as Mourinho’s men had two minor wobbles in rolling to the title, but smashed the league goals record and gained vital points on the road which had been their shortcoming in the past.  As for the Blaugrana, they gave everything, but after almost five years of constant competition for club and country, when it came to find the extra gear, they were found wanting.  Pep has exited, handing the reigns over Tito Vilanova, and this off season will be crucial—preparation, adjustment to new manager, and possible signings—if FCB want to get back to the top.

One of my most ill advised posts was one I wrote about being Bored with Barcelona.  In late September, things were humming along as it looked like FCB was cruising towards another sextuple.  Having high entertainment standards and a low attention span caused me to write comments that were worthless the moment they hit the screen.  I have been properly chastised and look forward to next season’s challenge on all fronts, regardless of results.

Next, Valencia were a mixed bag.  Clearly first of the rest for the opening half of the season, 2012 proved a different proposition all together.  Poor league form saw them overhauled by the chasing pack before they righted themselves to finish third again despite another summer of player sales and financial constraints.  They also had a decent Europa League run, making the semis before being disposed of by Atleti.  In the end Emery left and now Pellegrino will have a go at trying to keep the club at its current level.

Malaga kept everyone guessing, as a poor start saw them well off the European places, but eventually Pellegrini got Los Boquerones firing on all cylinders.  They rose up to the table to get all the way to third before a couple of stumbles at the end caused them to finish fourth.  The squad still needs improvement, especially at the forward position but they have a solid core that will allow them to compete next year.

What can you say about Levante?  Los Granotes were probably THE story of 2011/12, a plucky side with the oldest back five ever in La Liga, a forward who couldn’t score for Sevilla but couldn’t stop finishing for his new team, and a team spirit that kept them fighting all the way to the end.  They eventually finished sixth and will participate in the Europa League next season.

Falcao was one of the best players outside the Big Two, with his goals firing Atleti to Europa League glory and keeping Los Rojiblancos alive in the race for Europe next season as they finished fifth, two points behind Malaga.  Who knows if he will be playing for Simeone next year as the third party that owns his registration may try to cash in on a phenomenal season.

Los Leones were another great story of the last season, with Bielsa creating a team that played scintillating football at times.  Their game against Barcelona at San Mames was one of the matches of the season and their destruction of Manchester United in the Europa League opened the eyes of the English media.  They had two great runs in the cup, making the finals of both the Europa League and the Copa del Rey, but success on multiple fronts exposed a thinness of squad that lead to poor form in La Liga, finishing tenth.

Osasuna don’t get a lot of pub, but their Jekyll and Hyde performances have to get a mention.  The finished with 54 points (13W 15D 10L), not too shabby, but their goal differential was -17.  Only five teams in the Primera were worse.  Their defense was water tight except when it wasn’t.  In five matches, they gave up 30 of their 61 goals against.  In the other 33 matches, they gave up less than a goal a game.  Sort that out.

Finally there was the battle at the bottom.  For most the season, Zaragoza and Gijonwere nailed on relegation candidates, having no chance at survival.  And then something happened, as both teams starting amassing points putting pressure on the teams ahead of them.  Racing became the new whipping boys and were resigned to Segunda football early in the summer.

Going in to the final day, five teams were involved in the relegation battle.  Villarreal had been sucked in to the relegation zone early in the season after selling Cazorla, a shaky defense and injuries to Rossi and Nilmar.  I kept waiting for them to go a run and pull themselves clear, but instead the Yellow Submarine remained within touching distance of the bottom three, eventually going down on the last day as they lost to Atleti and Rayo scored a last gasp goal against Granada to survive.  These were my thoughts on the dramatic last day of the La Liga season.

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During the season, here were the best games I saw:

*Valencia v FCB

Los Che gave the Champions all they could handle, taking advantage of a shaky defense to put the Blaugrana on the rack.  The Alba/Mathieu pairing was fantastic.

*Athletic Bilbao v FCB

In a rain soaked San Mames, a game of rare intensity, quality and grit occurred.  Los Leones twice led but were eventually pegged back in the waning moments.  A preview of the season for both sides.

*Valencia v Real Madrid

Here is where Real showed their title credentials.  Los Blancos traveled to the Mestalla, played an incredible match, equaled by the hosts and held on to for the victory after Los Che made it 2-3 and threw everything at them.

*Athletic Bilbao v Espanyol

A back and forth match that featured a fierce hit by Romaric and a couple of nice free kicks before a late, late equalizer by Albin for Espanyol.

*FCB v Real Madrid

The end.  For now.  Cristiano’s goal was of such quality that all anyone can do is stand and clap.  Mourinho’s broke the hoodoo in the finest way possible—winning at their opponent’s home, matching them in technical and physical terms, and staying away from the unsavory elements that had come before.

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To wrap up, I wanted to share  thoughts from some of the other writers and sites that I follow:

Sonja (@sopra1988) summed up the season for Inside Spanish Football, touching on the high notes: Messi’s goals, Real Madrid’s record breaking points and goals scored, Bilbao’s brave effort, Mallorca’s surprise finish, the departure of Kanoute from Sevilla, and the tense last moments in the relegation zone on the last day of season, to name a few.

Tim Stannard picked out five for the future in his Spanish Thing column for Football365.com: Courtois, de Marcos, Isco, Iñigo Martínez, and Varane.  I saw a lot of de Marcos and Isco this season so totally concur.

Andy May and Sid Lowe, along with several guest contributors, looked back at the 2011/12 La Liga season for Sky Sports La Liga Weekly.  The beginning of the pod focused on the Big Two—Barcelona’s failure to win in Spain or in Europe, Pep leaving and the future of the club and trying to put the team into context, as well as evaluating Real Madrid, who seem to be going from strength to strength and could start a cycle of their own.  They also discussed Atleti’s prospects for next season, whether they will kick on or go back as usual, before moving onto Athletic Bilbao, who were an attractive side, gaining supporters around Europe, but wondering if the can they hold on to players.  Finally there was a brief mention of the teams that battled it out at the bottom, with Sid reiterating that Lotina, who went down with the Yellow Submarine as he went down with Depor, had too negative of an approach to survive.

Finally, Heath Chesters shared his personal journey finding and following Granada up through the divisions of Spanish football.  He makes the case for teams like Granada, well run, financially stable and having strong away support as the model for the league rather than the overspending and snobbish super teams.  Great stuff.

Just wanted to thank a couple of sites that I followed all season:

A Different Liga

Inside Spanish Football

SpanishFootball.info

Atletico Fans

Villarreal USA

Athletic Bilbao Offside

Barcelona Football Blog

Total Barca

Real Madrid Football Blog

And I thoroughly enjoyed reading Sid Lowe, Graham Hunter and Phil Ball all season.

Plus, many thanks to Elisa at Forza Futbol for great content and retweets and conversations, and the guys at El Centrocampista for allowing me to have a bit part at their great site and engaging me on social media.

Morbo Minute–DDay in La Liga

The final round opened with two matches of no consequence.  Valencia slumped to yet another league defeat in 2012, as they closed the book on another successful/unsuccessful season.  Connor Andrews at El Centrocampista examined the club as Los Che look to move forward with a new manager (Pellegrino), a new player (Jonathan Viera) and an existing sponsor (Jinko Solar).

Barcelona also wrapped up their campaign with a 2-2 draw away to Betis.  They now sit for almost two weeks before trying to send Pep off with one more trophy in the Copa del Rey Final on 5/25.

Maria recapped the game for Total Barca, assessing the personnel for the match (Afellay, Keita and Montoya in particular) as much as the performance, with the Blaugrana able to secure a draw despite having Alves sent off.  The campaign was not as successful as the previous three, but what joy they provided those who watched.

Looking ahead to the summer transfer window Lee Roden tried to temper enthusiasm regarding new signings.  He is pretty confident that FCB will not break a broke Spanish bank to sign RvP, Thiago Silva, Bale and Javi Martinez.  The squad should be strengthened by the return of Villaand the club just needs to make one or two astute signings, preferably Thiago Silva and Jordi Alba for me.  Sounds just about right.

After a dramatic Sunday morning following the twists and turns of the Premier League, I was able to calm down (thanks to a couple of beers and a shot of whiskey) to get ready for the final round of La Liga matches, which would prove to be equally compelling, albeit at the other end of the table.

Finding games was tough.  US TV decided to show Real Madrid against Mallorca, a game only significant because Los Blancos were going for a record 100 league points, a goal that they duly hit in thrashing the visitors 4-1.

Madridista Mac woke up on Monday morning basking in the glow of another “Formula One Football” performance by the league champs that saw Ronaldo complete the task of scoring against every team in the league in one season; the club hitting 100 points; and the team going through every gear in demolishing their opponent.  As a Barca fan, I respect Real Madrid rather than hate them and am interested to see what their next act is.  After this season it is hard to imagine how even Sergio Ramos can let the trophy slip from his grasp.

My legit internet option was Levante hosting Athletic Bilbao, and this was a key game in the race for Europe.  I kept an eye on the match in first half but eventually my attention was drawn elsewhere.  Los Granotes would eventually run out 3-0 winners to finish sixth and cap off a phenomenal season.

Jack at Athletic Bilbao Offside summed up the last couple of weeks in one sentence: With league form sacrificed for the two cup runs, our final position wasn’t going to matter much this season but the defeat is still disappointing.  Los Leones finished tenth in La Liga and now look ahead to the Copa del Rey Final against FC Barcelona.  Here’s hoping they are well rested and give the Blaugrana a game.

The real drama was at the bottom of the table, with five teams fighting to avoiding relegation.  At kickoff, I found feeds for Levante/Athletic and Rayo/Granada, while getting constant updates on Villarreal against Atletico Madrid.  Rayo and Granada were slugging it out and neither team could get the opener.  At halftime, all the games involving relegation teams were scoreless, but shortly into the second half, things began to change.  First Zaragoza scored to get them out of the bottom three.  Then Malaga got a goal against Sporting through Rondon, which dented Gijon’s chances of survival.  Time continued to tick away as the Rayo/Granada game was scoreless, meaning that Rayo would go down.  The game opened up, chances started to materialize, but Rayo could not find the saving goal.  Entering the last five minutes, another twist to the story appeared as Falcao scored yet another goal to put Villarreal in real trouble.  That trouble was compounded when Tamundo smashed in the ball from close range to finally sink the Yellow Submarine after a difficult, and disappointing, season.  The scenes were phenomenal with fans rushing the field and opposing players embracing, everyone able to celebrate another season of Primera football.  Wasn’t the greatest game, but it produced the most dramatic of results.  Thanks to El Centrocampista for giving me the framework for the events.

Allen Dodson at VillarrealUSA was obviously not in the best of spirits while summarizing a game that had the worst result possible.  However, he holds out hope that the Yellow Submarine bounce right back to the Primera.   From his mouth to God’s ears.

Phil Ball tried to keep track of the constantly changing events of the final day that led to devastating blow to Villarreal.  He also made time to praise Real Madrid’s points and goals haul, while shining a light on Mikel Aranburu, who retired from Real Sociedad after 15 years of service.

Finally, Sid Lowe’s Guardian column this week is lengthy but absolutely worth it as he describes scenes beyond comprehension in Vallecas.  His account is far better than mine because a) he was there; b) he wasn’t watching several games in a beer induced haze; and c) he’s a better writer than me.  Rayo were only in the relegation zone for 33 minutes of the season—the last 33 minutes.  Their last gasp goal saved them and doomed Villarreal, who Sid goes on to explain were too defensive and let in too many last minute goals, with a series of draws in the run in were the source of the failure to stay up.  From Champions League to Segunda in just nine months.

What a day.