JOSE MOURINHO MAY not be on Manolo Preciado’s Christmas card list but should the moustachioed wonder receive flowers from an unknown admirer on Valentine’s Day, he need not wonder who they are from. Preciado’s Gijon did what 16 other teams in La Liga, including Mourinho’s Real, failed to do. They stopped the mighty Barça.
But, if Preciado has helped Mourinho, he has done so begrudgingly. Last September in their first league encounter against Barça in the Camp Nou, Sporting fielded a weak team. Mourinho cried foul but the press dropped it. That was until Real visited El Molinón and Mourinho kicked the sleeping dog.
Mourinho questioned Preciado’s decision to rest players saying that Real could never win the league should teams help Barça so. Preciado’s who had stayed quiet suddenly flew off the handle and accused Mourinho of lacking respect and being a bad colleague. Spain was divided with some agreeing that Mourinho had crossed the line while Real fans countered that Preciado was out of touch with 21st century football.
So, as Sporting faced Barça at home this weekend almost everyone expected an away win. That is everyone except Sporting because for as much as they would love to see Pep Guardiola triumph over Mourinho, they need points to stay up. And, Sporting intended to fight Barça all the way and on the 17th minute David Barral shocked everyone as he skipped through the Barça defence and scored. He twisted and turned past Pique and when Milito slipped he took he chance.
Barça were stunned but came at Sporting with force. Commentators, fans and barmen alike all questioned just how long Sporting could hold out. Barça had over 80% possession and over 15 shots but still could do nothing to break Sporting’s defence.
Sporting were holding on to their lead and in fact their only shot on target had resulted in their goal. But, on the 80th minute, Messi fed through Villa, who chipped the keeper to make it one all. Cuellar came running off his line and almost seemed to dare Villa to chip him. Real fans put their head in their hands and Barça fans waved their fists and urged their team to go and score the 2nd. But, Sporting held on and won a valuable point.
Guardiola came out afterwards and said that his team isn’t invincible and Preciado claimed that draws like this should be worth more. The Spanish daily Marca ran with the headline ‘Preciado gifts Mourinho 2 points’ while the AS claims ‘There is a League’. A little optimistic considering that Barça were still 8 points ahead, granted having played a game more, but Madrid learned last week against Osasuna that they shouldn’t count their points until they have actually won them.
Around the grounds
As Joaquin slotted the ball past De Gea it seemed the writing was on the wall for Atletico Madrid’s Quique Sanchez Flores. All week there had been rumours that failure to win against Valencia would end up with him getting the chop.
A goal from Reyes seemed to get the ball rolling but a defensive error allowed Joaquin to equalize. A missed penalty by Forlán in the 2nd half makes it 4 league games without a goal for the Uruguayan. But the Atletico faithful let their feelings known after Valencia took the lead by singing their manager’s name. Sanchez Flores said afterwards he was going nowhere, but with a club that changes manager as often as it does its jerseys, it is clear his days are numbered.
Forget the X Factor, Racing Santander have the Marcelino factor. Previously at the club in the 2007-08 season, he guided the club to 6th place and UEFA cup football. He left to take over newly relegated Real Zaragoza and while he got them up again, bad results ended up with him losing his job. But Santander, who have recently being taken over by Indian business tycoon Ahsan Ali Syed, rehired him this week and they beat Sevilla with an injury-time goal
The Di Stefano of the 21st Century
Quique Sanchez Flores claimed last week that Leo Messi was the Alfredo Di Stefano of this century. Di Stefano is seen as George Best is seen in the UK and Ireland and it is the highest compliment that a player can receive. And, while last week he played brilliantly, this week Messi was almost anonymous against Sporting. That said, he did pass through for Villa to score.
The ‘other’ Di Stefano of the 21st Century
Insulted that such high praise be given to their rivals, Real Madrid’s paper of choice Marca ran with the headline Monday ’The Real Di Stefano of 21st Century’. This week Ronaldo was forced to work his socks off as Real had Casillas sent off in the 2nd minute. A goal from Marcelo settled it but Ronaldo was nonstop. Adebayor missed 4 great shots to score. Something all Arsenal fans will know about.
La Liga Results
Hércules 2-1 Real Zaragoza, At. Madrid 1-2 Valencia, Sporting G. 1-1 Barcelona, Racing Santander 3-2 Sevilla, Levante 1-0 Almería, Málaga 2-2 Getafe, Real Sociedad 2-0 Osasuna. Deportivo 1-0 Villareal, Espanyol 0-1 Real Madrid, Mallorca v Ath. Bilbao -Monday