Butarque, Madrid – It had already turned 10pm on Wednesday, but the evening was only just beginning – in more ways than one. As the 12,000 Leganes supporters finally spilled out onto the streets of this suburb south of the Spanish capital heading for the neighborhood bars until the early hours, there was yet more drama to come on this evening of shocks in La Liga.
Leganes had beaten Barcelona, for the first time in their history – considering that they have only met five times officially, that may not be all that extraordinary, but given that this is only Leganes’ third season in the Primera, it is quite a story. However, it was also not completely unexpected. Los Pepineros had beaten Real Madrid last season in the Spanish Copa del Rey quarter-finals proving that they are capable of providing an upset on the big stage.
However, rather than over two-legs, here it was done in 68 seconds. The match was seemingly under control; Philippe Coutinho had given Barcelona the lead in the 12th minute with a low volley from outside the area that left Ivan Cuellar with little chance. It was the type of game that Ernesto Valverde has managed to see out since he took over La Blaugrana in August 2017. But this one proved different.
Leganes slowly grew into the half and only the intervention of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen prevented Juanfran’s free-kick and Oscar’s curled effort from leveling the match. Uncharacteristically, both of Leganes’ goals came from defensive errors. A simple pass and a looping cross exposed Sergi Roberto and Thomas Vermaelen as Nabil El Zhar headed in the equaliser.
A mere 68 seconds followed before Oscar profited from a huge Pique mistake to give the hosts a surprise lead. There looked to be little danger when Pique raced to prevent Silva from latching on to a long ball forward but the Barca defender’s pass sideways picked out Oscar, who gratefully fired high into the net. The home fans could not believe what they were seeing.
Valverde’s away record during his time as Athletic Bilbao manager has been criticized and it does show signs to be reappearing at Barcelona. On the back of the 2-2 draw at home against Girona on Sunday, this represented yet more dropped points for last seasons’ league champions. “There are no excuses today,” Sergio Busquets said after the match. “The draw the other day was different because of the sending off, but today there are no excuses.”
The manner in which Leganes had managed this remarkable turnaround was most surprising – it was emblematic of Barcelona’s debacle in Rome last season but in a smaller setting. The two quick goals shocked Barcelona and the league, but unbeknown to everyone was that a little over 500 kilometers south and in two hours time there would be another twist.
The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Sevilla is a notoriously difficult place to go, Real Madrid had not won there since May 2015, before then it wasn’t since December 2011. The opportunity to overtake Barcelona at the top of the table – albeit so early in the season as matchday 6 – had arrived. Real, however, hadn’t.
Sevilla were slicker, sharper, faster and above all, more intense. There were huge gaps in Los Blancos’ defence; Marcelo and Sergio Ramos were continuously exposed defensively. The Andalucians had scored 13 goals in their last three games and there were yet more signs of Pablo Machin’s magic working in southern Spain against Real.
Andre Silva scored twice whilst Wissam Ben Yedder – who had already scored five in the past week against Standard Liege and Levante – scored another. Remarkably they all came in a first-half that the calamitous Real Madrid would want to forget. At the other end, Gareth Bale missed chances, Karim Benzema was practically non-existent and the visitors never found a way to cope with their host’s persistent pressing.
The defeat was different to the 10 others that Real have experienced at this stadium in the last 18 years. Every time Sevilla attacked, it looked like they might score and aside from the second-half when Luka Modric saw an effort ruled out by VAR for offside, Julen Lopetegui’s side were always second best.
The lack of intensity from Real was a concern, but the defeat – following on from the loss in the Uefa Super Cup in August and a draw away at Athletic Bilbao two weeks ago – only adds more intrigue and fire to Saturday’s derby. “We have to turn the page quickly,” Lopetegui admitted. “There are important games ahead.”
Wednesday evening needs to be put into perspective and despite the fact that Barcelona and Real Madrid had lost on the same matchday since January 2015 this is no crisis. Both are still capable of performing and competing on the biggest of stages; albeit both managers do have issues to iron out – consistency being the most apparent – and an unrelenting calendar does little to ease matters.
Although both suffered a humiliation on Wednesday evening, La Liga did not. This was not just about Real Madrid and Barcelona, this was about Leganes and Sevilla; two triumvirates stealing the spotlight and deservedly so. In some ways, matches like these are what La Liga needs – the most apparent signs that this is not a two-club-league. This could well prove to be the start of an unpredictable season in Spain.
Los Otros Puntos
As Barcelona and Real Madrid struggled, Atletico Madrid cruised to a three-goal victory over Huesca. Antoine Griezmann managed to score his first goal in 389 minutes of football since the opening matchday. Thomas Partey and Koke scored the others as Los Rojiblancos put in their best display of the season so far; it was an important win for belief and confidence heading into the derby.
“I’m the first to be sent off again, I don’t know if it is a coincidence.” These are not the words uttered by a player, but rather Valencia manager Marcelino who is now developing a reputation as a combustible character. Having been sent to the stands during his side’s draw at Villarreal at the weekend, he was positioned up in a private box to watch the game against Celta Vigo; unfortunately for Marcelino the result was the same.
Ronaldo watched on as Real Valladolid won their first match back as a member of the Spanish elite. Against 10-man Levante, Los Pucelanos – now owned by the former Real Madrid striker – fought hard to see out the 2-1 victory.
Espanyol 1–0 Eibar
Real Sociedad 2–2 Rayo Vallecano
Atletico Madrid 3–0 Huesca
Athletic Bilbao 0–3 Villarreal
Leganes 2–1 Barcelona
Valencia 1–1 Celta Vigo
Sevilla 3–0 Real Madrid
Alaves 1–1 Getafe
Real Valladolid 2–1 Levante
Girona 0–1 Real Betis