Unless something shocking happens between now and the end of the season, Barcelona will be crowned as La Liga champions once again following their 2-0 win over Real Sociedad, while Real Madrid once again failed to beat Valencia at home, drawing at 2-2. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi didn’t score, but one of them actually helped his team win, while the other embarrassed himself with his usual diving and missed a penalty kick.
It’s pretty much over. Barcelona have two matches left and a four point lead. They can even afford to lose at the Vicente Calderon and still end the season with a win over 19th place Deportivo (playing the Nou Camp) and win the title. In short, it’s going to take a miracle, more or less, for Barcelona not to win the championship for a fifth time in seven years.
And Real Sociedad, as expected, didn’t make it easy on them. But a fine header from Neymar who has found his scoring chops again late in the season after a frustrating first half with some close range misses and a beautiful scissor kick from Pedro in the finale made sure Barcelona keep their fantastic form of the past couple of months in both domestic and European competition, taking another step towards the La Liga title.
In the Santiago Bernabeu, it was a great match, or at least an entertaining one. Valencia taking a two goal lead before the half hour mark, Cristiano Ronaldo missing a penalty (or more like the fantastic Diego Alves saving it), a comeback from Real Madrid with two second half goals including a late equalizer by Isco, the woodwork coming into play on Valencia’s behalf and some hair-raising misses from Valencia in the final moments of the match by Alvaro Negredo and Rodrigo De Paul.
This was a fine performance from Gareth Bale, who Real Madrid love to criticize, and a poor one from Cristiano Ronaldo. Not just the penalty miss, or the embarrassing dive he was caught on. That’s not new. But his stubbornness to keep taking free kicks despite his awful record in them this past year, usually hitting the wall or sending it into row Z as a ‘Football Manager’ transcript usually indicates. Bale might not be right footed, but Toni Kroos is, and he’s not the only one who knows how to take a free kick.
Ronaldo, when he doesn’t score, hardly contributes anything. Obviously, that’s something you’re willing to live with for 50 goals and more each season, but when Real Madrid look back at this season and wonder why they didn’t win the championship again (it’ll be just one title in seven seasons), part of the answer will be a leading man, the team’s superstar, who won’t delegate and can’t do much besides scoring goals. Sometimes, just sometimes, you need a different approach.