Saturday in La Liga: Defeat for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at home, Real Madrid extend lead with win on the road

Newly appointed Barcelona coach Xavi suffers first defeat in charge. Simeone’s side fall out of top four after late drama. Madrid stay clear atop table despite Benzema injury. SwiftScores writer takes you through a dramatic weekend in the Spanish top division.

Takefusa Kubo leaves it late against Atletico Madrid

Defending La Liga champions Atletico Madrid have slipped to a shock 2-1 defeat against Mallorca in the Spanish capital. Diego Simeone’s side missed the chance to close the growing gap on their title rivals ahead of a crunch week for the club.

Both sides created chances to edge ahead in the opening stages with Jan Oblak producing a vital stop to keep out Kang-in Lee. However, the hosts eventually forced themselves in front on 68 minutes as Matheus Cunha scuffed home Angel Correa’s cross at the second attempt.

But the visitors rallied superbly, as Franco Russo headed them level from a deep free kick before Real Madrid loanee Takefusa Kubo raced clear in added time to tuck home the winner.

The loss leaves Atletico in fourth place on 29 points, seven adrift of leaders Real Madrid as they head to Portugal midweek in a decisive UCL clash against Porto, before next weekend’s Madrid derby showdown.

Juanmi winner heaps more trouble on Xavi and his seventh placed Barca side

Real Betis downed Camp Nou legend Xavi and his youthful Barca with Juanmi firing the only goal of the game 11 minutes from time.

Xavi had begun with two league wins out of two but even he admitted the results against Espanyol and Villarreal owed a lot to good fortune.

In between, a goalless draw at home to Benfica in the Champions League exposed Barcelona’s ongoing problems in front of goal and that was evident against Betis.

Ousmane Dembele, who came on off the bench, posed the greatest threat while the 19-year-old Abde Ezzalzouli missed a golden opportunity to equalise late on, when the ball was cut back to him eight yards out. The youngster blazed over.

In the 79th minute, Betis had showed more composure to finish off a scintillating counter-attack. Sergio Canales broke free down the right but the move appeared to have lost its momentum when Canales pulled back to Cristian Tello on the edge of the area.

Instead, Tello shifted the ball quickly left to the arriving Juanmi, who took one touch before sliding into the corner.

“That goal annoyed me a lot because we had worked on those situations,” said Xavi. “We didn’t deserve to lose.”

Barca need to win away at Bayern Munich to guarantee their place in the last 16 and could be without Gavi after the midfielder was taken to hospital with a head injury.

No Benzema, no problem. Jovic, Vinicius step up in Real Madrid convincing win

Real Madrid stretched their lead at the top of La Liga to eight points on Saturday with a slick 2-0 win over Real Sociedad but the victory was tarnished by an injury to Karim Benzema.

The 33-year-old Frenchman was forced off in the first half at the Reale Arena with what appeared to be a problem around his left hamstring.

Yet Madrid marched on without their star striker to register another impressive win over high-flying Real Sociedad as Vinicius Junior continued his brilliant form by scoring the opener before Luka Jovic, Benzema’s replacement, added a second.

Vinicius’ 12th goal of the season came in the 47th minute as he weaved in from the left and played a clever reverse pass into Jovic, who held the ball up and turned it back to Vinicius, who drove in.

Jovic has endured a torrid time since joining Madrid for 60 million euros in 2019 but he could be given a run now in Benzema’s absence. After teeing up Vinicius, he stooped low to head in Casemiro’s flick-on from a corner for his first goal of the season.

La Liga table as it stands. 4-12-2021.

Elsewhere, Sevilla kept the pressure on Madrid with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Villarreal, while Granada picked up an important three points against Alaves in the Friday night game.

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