Yunus Musah and Valencia finally notched a win to temporarily halt their slide towards relegation, while Luca de la Torre and Celta Vigo were no match for powerhouse Real Madrid.
Elche 0 – 2 Valencia CF
Yunus Musah and Valencia gave themselves hope of avoiding what would be a humiliating relegation to Spain’s second tier, finally breaking their long winless streak with an impressive shut-out road win over Elche on Sunday.
With the team firmly rooted in the relegation places heading into the weekend, nothing short of a win against the current last-place team in La Liga was necessary. On the back of an opportunistic performance, where they made their scant chances count, they delivered the three points, and a lifeline to their survival chances.
Musah had a solid 80 minutes locking down the right side of Valencia’s midfield before departing the field in favor of Diego Lopez in the final minutes with his team in the upper hand. He had just 28 touches and completed eight of 11 passes, but created one chance, was successful on two of his five attempted dribbles, won both of his tackles and seven of 16 duels.
He did, however, pick up his ninth yellow card of the season in the 14th minute for a reckless collision in the midfield, putting him dangerously close to another suspension at a critical point in his team’s season.
Samuel Lino netted the opener for Valencia in the 19th minute, seemingly from out of nowhere. Édinson Cavani rose high to lead on Giorgi Mamardashvili’s goal kick into the Brazilian’s path, who powered past his marking defender and awkwardly struck the ball goalward with his shin, before colliding with the Elche keeper.
Even if it was completely devoid of grace, the ball still bounced over the line, giving Valencia the early lead.
Just before the 27-minute mark, Musah’s sharp cross from the right targeted Lino in the middle of the area. Elche defender Omar Mascarell tried to clear the ball, however kicked it straight into Lino, where it deflected just wide of the left upright, inches away from the 2-0.
With three minutes left in the half, they received their second goal as a generous gift from their hosts, after José Gayà’s low cross towards Cavani at the far post was knocked in by Elche defender Gonzalo Verdu.
Five minutes into the second half, Musah and Lino nearly teamed up on a third goal; the American bullishly took on three defenders while crossing the midfield stripe, then slid the ball wide left to Lino. The Brazilian cut inwards from the flank and targeted the lower right corner, with the ball bouncing less than a yard wide of the mark.
The win, Valencia’s first since early-March, lifts them out of the bottom three, where they precariously lead 18th-place Almeria by goal differential. They still have a tough task to survive their final eight games, however will be hopeful of winning a second straight when they welcome 14th-place Real Valladolid on Thursday.
Real Madrid 2 – 0 Celta Vigo
Luca de la Torre and Celta Vigo did about all the massive underdogs could be expected to do at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, limiting their hosts to a respectable two-goal shut-out win on Saturday.
Despite Celta having been on a strong run as of late, before Monday’s narrow loss to Mallorca, few would have expected them to take anything out of their visit to the Madrid giants.
Even though the game eventually settled into the expected, oppressively dominant display by the hosts after the first 20 minutes, Celta never folded, and ended up putting on a far better showing than their 4-1 loss at home in last August’s return fixture.
The USMNT midfielder played the full 90 minutes in Celta’s four-man midfield, largely tasked with keeping tabs on eventual man-of-the-match Marco Asensio and Uruguayan international Federico Valverde.
Despite the hosts holding roughly two-thirds of possession, de la Torre still had 47 touches, completed 24 of his 29 passing attempts, took a pair of shots. On the defensive side, he won just two of 11 duels, made nine recoveries, committed two fouls and was beaten twice on the dribble.
After being held at bay by their visitors for most of the first half, Los Blancos finally opened the scoring in the 42nd minute. Vinicius Junior was released on a run up the left side, and after cutting into the area, dropped a short pass back towards the penalty spot. Asensio had managed to sneak in behind the defenders, and calmly slammed the ball with his first touch for the 1-0 advantage.
Three minutes after the break, the Spanish international set up their second, whipping in an inswinging corner from the right side, which Éder Militao rose to head in for the two-goal lead.
Two minutes past the hour, de la Torre’s one-timed attempt when a blocked shot fell at his feet was a nice idea, but was blocked by Eduardo Camavinga before causing any trouble to Real keeper Thibaut Courtois.
Then in the 69th, he collected a poor touch from Karim Benzema deep in Madrid territory and tried a quick shot to the lower left, which was ultimately several yards wide.
With the loss, Celta fall to 13th place, still with a six-point gap above the relegation spots. They are back in action on Wednesday night when dead-last Elche comes for a visit.
Jonathan Gomez made the bench for Real Sociedad on Saturday for their 2-1 home win over Rayo Vallecano, however was not called into action. Currently in fourth place with a six-point gap ahead of Real Betis with eight games left, La Real look to be headed back to the Champions League after a ten-year absence.
Samuel Shashoua will hope to make Tenerife’s bench on Monday night when they visit SD Huesca in La Liga 2 action.