25 February 2008
MADRID – Barcelona rolled over Levante in an easy 4-1 home win on Sunday. The victory helped Barcelona keep up the pressure on Real Madrid, which was playing against Getafe at press time.
On Saturday night, Sevilla proved once again that it might have left its challenge for this season’s Liga title too late, but that behind the top two of Real and Barça, it is probably the strongest bet to secure the remaining two Champions League qualifying berths. The 5-0 home win over Real Zaragoza saw Sevilla go fifth in the standings, but will also give the Andalusian team confidence ahead of the return leg against Turkey’s Fenerbahçe in this year’s premium Euro-competition, Sevilla needing to turn around a 3-2 defeat in front of its own fans on Tuesday 4 March.
Against a team with one of the worst away records in the first division, Sevilla really should have scored more than five – and even then they were aided by two of the goals being scored by desperate Zaragoza defenders scrambling to clear attacks from the Sevilla flanks.
With Diego Capel down the left and Jesús Navas on the right, backed up by the indefatigable Dani Alves at right back, almost every Sevilla possession in the first half ended with either a dangerous cross or a dribble into the area by a marauding winger. It is a nice time to play as a forward at the Sánchez Pizjuán and Luis Fabiano added two more to his Liga season’s tally of 19, five ahead of his nearest challenger, Zaragoza’s Diego Milito, who barely got a sniff of goal all night.
The two own goals, by Roberto Ayalá and Carlos Diogo, either side of the half-time break put Sevilla out of sight, and then the latter defender effectively ended the game as a spectacle by getting a direct red card. The Uruguayan Diogo followed through high and hard on Capel – who must be the most fouled player in the league at the present time – allowing Sevilla coach Manolo Jiménez the luxury of taking off Fabiano, Navas and Seydou Keita, after the Malian had headed number five, for some well-earned rest.
"From the first minute, everything came off for us," was coach Jiménez’s summary, before adding that "the 5-0 scoreline doesn’t quite do us justice."
Earlier on Saturday evening, Valencia also produced a much-improved performance before its home fans, but failed to take three points from Recreativo, which would have constituted a satisfying end to what had been a difficult week for the club. Coach Ronald Koeman’s new-look midfield showed signs of gelling with David Silva, Joaquín and Ever Banega producing some much-needed sparkle at Mestalla. Indeed, it was the latter’s wonderpass to forward Juan Manuel Mata which gave Valencia the lead in the 38th minute. A combination of poor finishing and one questionable disallowing of a goal left the door ajar to Recre, which levelled the game at 1-1 in the 51st minute through a long-range Carlos Martins strike.
Saturday’s game came just one day after many Valencia players, the coach and club president Juan Soler had appeared in court due to the legal action being taken against the club by former captain David Albelda, dropped from the team by Koeman in December. Albelda is demanding a EUR 60 million payout as compensation for the termination of his contract, while the club has agreed to pay EUR 4.8 million. The judge urged the two sides to come to a mutually acceptable agreement.
Other results: Osasuna 3-1 Atlético; Athletic 1-2 Villarreal; Racing 1-0 Almería; Murcia 0-1 Valladolid; Mallorca 1-1 Betis; Depor 2-0 Espanyol
[Copyright EL PAÍS / J. BADCOCK 2008]