2nd October 2023

La Liga round-up: Barça restore 5-point lead

Ousmane Dembele gave Barça a glimpse into the future but the team still needed Lionel Messi to beat Leganes 3-1 on Sunday and restore their five-point lead at the top of La Liga.

Messi had started on the bench, rested by coach Ernesto Valverde, and for just over an hour at the Camp Nou, Dembele filled the void by scoring the opening goal in a sparkling individual display.

The 21-year-old, however, limped off injured in the 69th minute, shortly after Leganes had equalised through Martin Braithwaite and Valverde responded by bringing on Messi.

He needed only seven minutes to make an impact as his bending shot was followed up by Luis Suarez, who poked the ball in ahead of Leganes goalkeeper Pichu Cuellar. Messi then rounded off the win by scoring himself in injury-time.

Luis Suarez La Liga
Barcelona’s Luis Suarez scores a goal against Leganes at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on 20 January 2019. (Josep Lago / AFP)

Leganes had protested against Suarez’s finish, convinced that Pichu had been fouled by a high foot. But VAR disagreed and Barça advanced to what was, in truth, a fully deserved victory.

It means they regain their hefty advantage over Atletico Madrid at the top of the table, with the difference ahead of Real Madrid also back to 10 points.

Leganes had beaten Barcelona at home in September but that remains the high point of their season. They stay 14th.

Valverde was accused of failing to rest key players last season, to the detriment of their progress in the Champions League, and his gamble to spare Messi just about paid off.

They needed him in the end but for a while, Dembele, and the 21-year-old Carles Alena in midfield, had shown there may yet be life after Messi, who turns 32 in June.

Real Madrid, Sevilla, Atletico 

Casemiro’s stunning long-range strike and a late goal from Luka Modric earned Real Madrid a 2-0 win over Sevilla on Saturday and a much-needed boost to their flailing title challenge in La Liga.

It means they move above Sevilla and behind Atletico Madrid, who stay second after running out 3-0 winners away at bottom-club Huesca.

Diego Simeone’s side remain Barça’s most tenacious challengers but for Real, this was their most impressive result in weeks, following a run of only two wins from five matches.

‘Beating your direct rivals is always worth more than three points,’ coach Santiago Solari said afterwards. ‘The celebration for our first goal was pure joy.’

Madrid had been thrashed by Sevilla in September, a 3-0 loss that triggered a run of one victory in seven games, the seventh culminating in Julen Lopetegui being sacked.

Solari sparked a brief revival but performances had slumped again. This was more like it, a purposeful display led by Modric, who played first with a bandage and then stitches to protect a cut eye.

‘He was outstanding,’ Solari said. ‘Considering he played with a cut, and stitches, he is a fighter. The fact he scored in the last minute shows his spirit and the spirit of the team.’

Spanish La Liga results up to Sunday 20 January 

Played Friday

Getafe 4 Alaves 0

Played Saturday

Real Madrid 2 Sevilla 0

Huesca 0 Atletico Madrid 3

Celta Vigo 1 Valencia 2

Played Sunday

Real Betis 3 Girona 2

Villarreal 1 Athletic Bilbao 1

Levante 2 v Valladolid 0

Rayo Vallecano 2 v Real Sociedad 2

Barcelona 3 v Leganes 1

Playing Monday

Eibar v Espanyol

La Liga Table – Sunday 20 January 2019

(Played, Won, Drawn, Lost, Goals For/Against, Points)

Barcelona                20 14  4  2  56  21  46

Atletico Madrid      20 11  8   1  30 13  41

Real Madrid            20 11  3   6 30  24  36

Sevilla                      20  9   6  5  31  22 33

Alaves                      20  9  5  6  22  23 32

Getafe                      20  8  7  5  25  16  31

Real Betis                20  8  5  7  25  25  29

Real Sociedad        20  7  5  8  25  24  26

Valencia                  20  5 11  4  19 18 26

Levante                   20  7  5  8  32  35  26

Girona                     20  5  9  6  23  26  24

Espanyol                19  7  3  9  21  27  24

Athletic Bilbao       20  4  11  5  21  26  23

Leganes                  20  5  7  8  18  24  22

Valladolid                20  5  7  8  17  23  22

Eibar                         19  5  7  7  21  28  22

Celta Vigo                20  5  6  9  32  34  21

Rayo Vallecano       20  5  5  10  24  36 20

Villarreal                  20  3  9  8  21  26  18

SD Huesca             20  2  5  13  17  39  11


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