Goals from Rafinha and Messi allowed Barça to overcome Atletico Madrid and seal the top spot in the La Liga on Saturday. But Real Madrid went back to the top with a win over Villarreal. Real Madrid scored three goals in 19 minutes to over-turn a deficit of two goals and earn a dramatic win.
On Sunday, Atletico Madrid hosted Barcelona and Rafinha curled a beautiful pass from Luis Suarez to give the Catalans a lead in the opening minutes. Diego Godin leveled the terms for the host but Lionel Messi once gains showed his brilliance to give visitors the lead. The goal saw the Catalans move to ahead with just one point separating them from the leaders, Real Madrid.
The league leaders, Real Madrid, were scheduled to play Villarreal away from home on Sunday afternoon. Before the same, some pundits predicted that the Catalans will snatch the top spot for a week or so. However, Bale scored an outstanding goal from outside the box to minimize the deficit before Toni Kroos earned a dramatic penalty. The incident was quite controversial, but the referee awarded the penalty to Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo made no mistake netting the ball in the corner from the spot and scored the equalizer.
The substitute, Alvaro Morata, put the Galacticos ahead with sheer brilliance in the box. Before the fancy turnaround, Manu Trigueros put the host ahead, lashing a stunning volley before the interval. Cederic Bakambu latched out to a pass from Bruno Soriano to score a brilliant goal, doubling the advantage for the host. Villarreal was expecting a picture-perfect outcome before the Galacticos bounced back to steal the spotlight.
— Real Madrid Fan (@RealMadridFanEN) February 26, 2017
Real Madrid wiped out Barça in less than five hours and retained their position at the summit of the La Liga table. They now are one point clear of their arch rivals, Barcelona.
Sunday evening was action packed but spiced with a bit of controversy as well. Villarreal led the game smoothly before Bale scored the opener for Real Madrid. It was this very stadium in 2013 that he debuted for Real Madrid and scored his first goal. He repeated the same feat four years later for the Galacticos, opening a window of hope for them.
Then came the moment of the controversy!
Bruno handled Toni Kroos in the box, but it was entirely unintentional because the ball had bounced back off a teammate in the crowded penalty box. According to the amendments in the La Liga rules, if a player is cannoned and a ball hits him in the penalty box, it’s not a penalty. However, the referee decided otherwise and awarded the penalty.
— Omnisport (@OmnisportNews) February 26, 2017
Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to the occasion and equalized. This was his 57th penalty for Real Madrid in the league. With this screamer from the spot, Ronaldo has added another laurel to his resume. He is now the highest goal scorer from the spot in La Liga’s history, surpassing the great Hugo Sanchez.
Villarreal's boss, Fran Escriba, was furious about the decision but was dismissed for his protest by the referee. Also, two Villarreal players were booked as well while on the bench. The team was heartbroken. Well, the night moved ahead and Real Madrid swiftly bounced back to the top.
Regarding the penalty, Zidane had to say this while speaking at Real's official website: “The players have said that it was a handball. I didn't see it from where I was, and I'll never interfere with refereeing decisions. He awarded it, and that's that”.
He further added, ‘We performed much better in the second half than we did in the first. We got into more scoring positions, and ultimately we come away with three points against opposition that can make life tough for you. We're happy to have taken three points against a great side.”
The fight at the top has grown more intense with both teams managing to win crucial away-games. However, Villarreal had worked extremely hard to secure a two-goal lead but couldn’t hold on to it. The result might have been different, had that penalty not awarded. Anyhow, what’s gone is gone, and Real Madrid has gone up the ladder with a point’s advantage.
Will they be able to win the La Liga crown this season? Share your thoughts about the controversial penalty in the comments section below.