MADRID (Reuters) – Ousmane Dembele’s late strike rescued a 1-1 draw for champions Barcelona at Atletico Madrid but Sevilla moved top with a 1-0 win over Real Valladolid. European champions Real Madrid were humiliated in a 3-0 defeat at Eibar.
Here are five talking points from the weekend’s action:
Rude awakening for Solari
Santiago Solari led Real Madrid to four wins from four games during his interim period but all the problems that have plagued the club this season came back to bite him in his first match as permanent coach.
The European champions were humiliated at Ipurua by Eibar, their defence caving in against the hosts’ high press as Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema looked helpless in attack.
Solari might have thought his first managerial job was easier than it seemed after his perfect start but this was a reminder that Real are still hugely flawed.
An ageing squad without the big player it was based around, in Cristiano Ronaldo, there are problems in every department bar goalkeeper.
Thibaut Courtois made several good saves but would have been left wondering if he made the right move when he forced his way out of Chelsea this year.
Silva the key piece of Machin’s machine
Sevilla top La Liga after 13 matches thanks to a narrow victory at Valladolid on Sunday, the winning goal scored by Andre Silva.
Although goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik made several good save and Silva’s header was created by the silky Pablo Sarabia, it is the scorer who has had the biggest impact on the team this season.
Silva, on loan from AC Milan, grabbed his eighth goal of the campaign in which his partnership with Wissam Ben Yedder has proved fruitful.
Pablo Machin, in his first season at the helm of the Andalusian side, has them playing effective football which has taken them to the top of the standings.
Silva endured a nightmare season in Serie A last year after his 33.6 million pounds ($43.2 million) move from Porto, starting seven games and scoring twice, but has resurrected his career in the south of Spain.
Touted to be Ronaldo’s successor for Portugal, Silva is doing his departed compatriot proud in La Liga too.
Diego Costa ends double drought
Returning from a foot injury to face Barcelona, the battling Spain striker had two scores to settle.
One was a personal goal drought that stretched back nine months in La Liga, with the forward not finding the net in the 18 matches before Saturday’s clash at the Wanda Metropolitano.
He had also never scored against Barcelona in 12 appearances for Atletico, Rayo Vallecano and Valladolid.
Both runs ended when Costa headed home Antoine Griezmann’s corner at the back post after 77 minutes.
Coach Diego Simeone will hope Costa can take heart from his goal and continue to find the net for a side who have lacked a prolific forward this season.
“He’s an animal and every time he’s on the pitch the team has a chance to win,” Simeone said.
Dembele beats the clock this time
Criticised by Barcelona team mates and France coach Didier Deschamps for his penchant for turning up late to training sessions, Ousmane Dembele has struggled at Barcelona since joining in August, 2017.
A first season beset by injuries has given way to one where he is fit but having to prove to coach Ernesto Valverde that he is good enough to represent Barcelona.
Only after Costa struck did Valverde turn to Dembele from the bench and the French World Cup winner made a decisive impact, netting a 90th-minute equaliser.
“We expect a lot of him because he is a great talent,” said Valverde, for whom Dembele has earned seven points in La Liga this season, more than any other player in the division.
Cazorla still has the magic touch
Even though Villarreal are struggling in 16th place, it is still worth tuning into their games to see the bewitching Santi Cazorla at work.
The former Arsenal playmaker’s career was derailed by injury but at 33 he returned to his former side Villarreal, and is still producing magic moments.
Cazorla set up both Villarreal’s goals in a 2-1 win over Real Betis, with Gerard Moreno and Samuel Chukwueze the grateful recipients.
The latter scored after a brilliant backheel from Cazorla, a special assist that showed he still has immense quality.
Man-of-the-match Cazorla also completed the 90 minutes for the second time this season, hinting is getting back to his best level of fitness and there may be more to come.
(Reporting by Rik Sharma, editing by Ed Osmond)