There was nothing too shocking in Barcelona winning comfortably against struggling Malaga, but Real Madrid’s inability to collect all three points at even more struggling Almeria, was certainly something of a shock.
Champions, leaders and most people’s champions elect, despite the Mourinho factor, Barcelona, faced a seemingly straight forward task at the Camp Nou against a Malaga side who had won just two of their last six and were sitting only just outside the drop zone.
Straight forward was exactly what it was. Malaga found themselves 2-0 down after just eighteen minutes. Iniesta opened the scoring from distance on eight minutes and David Villa doubled the lead courtesy of a Messi through ball ten minutes later. Xavi had struck the bar between the goals and Barcelona were threatening to run riot.
Malaga held on until ten minutes before half time when Pedro followed up after Iniesta’s shot had been saved.
Midway through the second half Duda scored a great free-kick for Malaga but that just served to annoy Barcelona who added a fourth just six minutes later through David Villa again.
That win means that Barcelona have won seventeen of their nineteen games this season and have scored a remarkable sixty-one goals in the process.
In order to cling on to Barcelona’s coat-tails just two points behind, Real Madrid had a trip to Almeria who were second from bottom in the league and haven’t got a home win to their name all season.
Although Real Madrid had the majority of possession they failed to break down the home side, who despite their poor record are a well organised team who have drawn six of their nine home games. The game was goalless at half-time.
On the hour mark Mourinho and Real’s worst nightmare came true when Jose Leonardo Ulloa’s left foot put the home side 1-0 up and left their illustrious visitors staring at a second place finish in the league.
Real Madrid launched wave after wave of attacks at the home goal and eventually with just thirteen minutes left a neat move culminating with a well weighted pass by Benzema saw substitute Esteban Granero hammer home the equaliser.
Real tried everything they knew to get the winner but Almeria held on to take a point and leave Real four points behind Barcelona at the top.
Four points might not seem like a huge deficit to make up but it is difficult to see where, in their current form, Barcelona are likely to drop any points to allow Real Madrid to get back to challenging them.
Whilst you can’t see Barcelona dropping points, Real Madrid have dropped away points at Mallorca and Levante before Almeria, as well as losing the game at Barcelona. They are formidable at home but you can see them slipping up on the road. Mallorca are a decent side at home but you would expect title contenders to win at Almeria and Levante.
The Mourinho effect has certainly improved Real Madrid and turned them into a better side than they were last season, but I think after a valiant effort, they are going to have to give up the chase and accept second place this year. Don’t bet against them next season though! Mourinho and failure have never been too close together.
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