Real Madrid Slip To Liga Defeat Against Espanyol


Espanyol’s Spanish defender Aleix Vidal celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the Spanish League football match between RCD Espanyol and Real Madrid CF at the RCDE Stadium in Cornella de Llobregat on October 3, 2021. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Real Madrid slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Espanyol on Sunday as Carlo Ancelotti’s side followed up a shock Champions League reverse with their first Liga defeat of the season.

Real, who lost to Moldovan minnows Sheriff Tiraspol on Tuesday, blew a chance to pull ahead of Atletico Madrid, who beat crisis-hit Barcelona 2-0 on Saturday to draw level with their city rivals on 17 points.

Ancelotti said Real had played “our worst match of the season”.

“I agree, we played badly,” the Italian coach added.

“We now need to use the international break to think about why this team’s attitude has changed in the space of a week.”

Espanyol took the lead on 17 minutes at the RCDE Stadium in Catalonia when Raul de Tomas found the net.

Aleix Vidal scored a sparkling second goal after nutmegging Nacho and smashing the ball past Real ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois 15 minutes into the second half.

The defeat leaves Real without a win in three games after they were held to a goalless draw by Villarreal in their previous league match.

READ ALSOMessi Suffers First PSG Defeat In Loss At Rennes


Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema (C) vies with Espanyol’s Spanish defender Sergi Gomez during the Spanish League football match between RCD Espanyol and Real Madrid CF at the RCDE Stadium in Cornella de Llobregat on October 3, 2021. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Karim Benzema had the ball in the net early in the second half but the goal was ruled out for Luka Jovic’s offside.

Just as Espanyol appeared to be about to extend their advantage again, Benzema pulled a goal back on 71 minutes, firing into the bottom corner after the Frenchman collected a pass from Jovic for his ninth league goal in eight games this season.

Espanyol had won just once in seven games this season but they hung on grimly in five minutes of added time to take all three points.

AFP

Barcelona Stay In Touch With Real Madrid And Send Down Rivals Espanyol

Barcelona's French defender Clement Lenglet (L) vies with Espanyol's Spanish forward Javier Puado during the Spanish League football match between Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 8, 2020. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)
Barcelona’s French defender Clement Lenglet (L) vies with Espanyol’s Spanish forward Javier Puado during the Spanish League football match between Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 8, 2020. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

 

 

Barcelona kept their faint title hopes alive and doomed Espanyol to relegation on Wednesday as Luis Suarez’s goal proved the winner in a pivotal Catalan derby at the top and bottom of La Liga.

A cagey contest at Camp Nou exploded into life for six frantic minutes at the start of the second half as Ansu Fati and Pol Lozano were sent off, leaving each side with 10 men before Suarez struck.

Suarez profitted after another superb contribution from a reinvigorated Antoine Griezmann, his backheel setting up Lionel Messi to shoot, with Suarez turning in the rebound.

This 1-0 victory was a far cry from the sparkling 4-1 win over Villarreal on Sunday but it moves Barca to within a point of Real Madrid, who play their game in hand at home to Alaves on Friday.

Espanyol, rooted to the bottom of the table, will be relegated. They sit 11 points adrift of safety with only three games left to play.

“Life or death” read the front page of Mundo Deportivo on Thursday morning – for Barcelona, who had to win to stay in touch with Madrid, and for Espanyol, given they needed a victory to prolong their survival effort.

Griezmann’s combination with Suarez and Messi, coming after his sumptuous chip against Villarreal, sustains the Frenchman’s momentum but this was more of a gritty win against an Espanyol team that hit the post at 0-0 and had chances.

With the superior head-to-head and a kind last four fixtures, Real Madrid remain firm favourites.

“We have to win our next three games,” said Suarez. “What Madrid do is up to them. If they drop points, fantastic. We just have to be there if they do.”

Espanyol needed to win but have not beaten Barcelona in the league since 2009 when Mauricio Pochettino was in charge and Rufete, the team’s fourth coach this season, accepted Messi’s commiserations at the final whistle with a look of resignation.

The club’s supporters this week expressed anger after a “shameful season” under the Chinese Rastar Group, which took majority control in 2016.

– ‘Ask forgiveness’ -Only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have spent more seasons in the top flight than Espanyol, who after 26 consecutive campaigns there must now rebuild.

“We ask forgiveness from our fans,” said Javi Lopez.

“We know these are tough moments for us but for our fans as well. This season nothing has gone right. It’s our fault and we are committed to coming back stronger.”

Barcelona had a lot of the ball in the first half but did little with it and in fact Espanyol had the better chances on the counter-attack.

Adri Embarba sped away down the right after honing on goal his finish had to be blocked by the outstretched right leg of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Ter Stegen was called upon again before half-time and this time Didac Vila raced clear down the left, his shot rebounding off the goalkeeper and Clement Lenglet before falling back to Vila, who hit the far post.

Quique Setien acted at the break, bringing Fati on and shifting Sergi Roberto to right-back but the 17-year-old lasted only five minutes, a high challenge on Fernando Calero earning in him a straight red card on review.

But any advantage Espanyol had was short-lived because Lozano then flew in high on Gerard Pique, with his studs up, and was also sent off to make it 10 against 10.

With the numbers equal but the spaces bigger, Barcelona could attack with greater freedom and they took the lead three minutes later.

A delightful Griezmann backheel teed up Messi to shoot and the ball spilled out for Suarez to tap in.

Messi almost added a second with a thumping volley at the back post while Espanyol wanted a penalty in injury-time when a shot hit the shoulder of Arturo Vidal. The appeals were rightly waved away.

Villarreal had earlier beaten Getafe 3-1 to reduce the gap behind Sevilla in fourth to three points.

Santi Cazorla scored two penalties for Villarreal to all-but end Getafe’s own hopes of Champions League qualification. Sevilla play away at Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.

Barcelona Could Condemn Espanyol To Relegation For The First Time Since 1994

File: Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos reacts to Espanyol’s goal during the Spanish league football match between RCD Espanyol and Real Madrid CF at the RCDE Stadium in Cornella de Llobregat on February 27, 2018. Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Forever condemned to live in the shadow of Barcelona, Espanyol’s worst nightmare will come true on Wednesday if they are doomed to relegation from La Liga by their city neighbours.

It is a likely scenario. With four games remaining, Chinese-owned Espanyol are rock bottom, 11 points from safety. Even a win at the Camp Nou would therefore only delay the inevitable.

Los Periquitos (The Budgerigars) have not beaten Barcelona in La Liga since 2009, when Mauricio Pochettino was coach.

Wednesday therefore looks set to be the day of reckoning for a club who are one of the proudest names in Spanish football.

It is too much to bear for fans, with the Federation of Espanyol Supporters’ Clubs this week issuing a statement to express their dismay at what has happened under the current ownership.

China’s Rastar Group, which specialises in model cars, paid 60 million euros ($67.7m) for 54 per cent of the club’s shares in January 2016. They now own almost 100 per cent.

“We have been deeply angered by this shameful season, the worst in our history,” said the federation, which has called on president Chen Yansheng to hand over the reins to someone based locally.

“We want to express our indignation, our sadness, our disappointment, anger and feeling of helplessness at witnessing this pathetic relegation.”

Espanyol have spent the season chopping and changing coaches, with David Gallego, Pablo Machin and Abelardo Fernandez all being sacked before sporting director Francisco Rufete was put in charge last month. He has been unable to halt the slide.

“The whole team are fed up with the situation, but they can’t give up. We have to keep fighting until the end,” Rufete said after a 1-0 defeat by Leganes at the weekend. “We have to go to the Camp Nou and play for pride.”

– Sorry season –

Espanyol’s sorry season has been all the harder to take as it came off the back of a fine 2018-19 campaign under Rubi.

He led them to seventh place and Europa League qualification, only to depart for Real Betis, taking top scorer Borja Iglesias with him. Spanish international defender Mario Hermoso left for Atletico Madrid and those departures were not adequately replaced.

“I can’t understand how 80 million euros has been spent on transfers, and with the eighth-biggest budget in the league, the club has had the worst season in its history,” fumed former president Joan Collet.

They did make it to the Europa League knockout rounds, but lost to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

There has been little else to cheer. Signed amid much excitement last year, Chinese striker Wu Lei has contributed just four league goals this season, including a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Barcelona in January.

– Proud history –

That would not be enough this time for a club who have won the Copa del Rey four times and twice reached the UEFA Cup final, most recently in 2007 when Ernesto Valverde’s team lost on penalties to Sevilla in Glasgow.

Only Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have spent more seasons in the top division than Espanyol — founded in 1900 and named not as a counter to the Catalanism of Barca, as is sometimes assumed, but as a reaction to a Barcelona team whose players were mostly foreigners.

Espanyol’s blue and white has graced the elite in 26 consecutive campaigns, playing in three different stadiums in that time.

They left their old home in Sarria in 1997 and spent a dozen years at the Montjuic Olympic Stadium before moving into a 40,000-seat home near the city’s airport in 2009.

That same year, club captain Dani Jarque died of a heart attack aged 26, and it was left to Pochettino to guide the team through the aftermath of that tragedy.

For all his efforts, Espanyol struggled to fill their new ground and continue to do so, despite trying to promote their own underdog identity.

Unlike their neighbours they have kept their distance from the Catalan independence movement, but Espanyol has a squad with a strong local core. That may not help them on Wednesday against Lionel Messi and co.

Benzema Shines As Madrid Beat Espanyol To Tighten Grip On La Liga Title

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema eyes on the ball prior to shooting and scoring his second goal during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Valencia CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on June 18, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema eyes on the ball prior to shooting and scoring his second goal during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Valencia CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on June 18, 2020.
JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Karim Benzema delivered another moment of magic on Sunday as Real Madrid took a two-point lead over Barcelona at the top of La Liga by beating bottom club Espanyol. 

Benzema’s volley against Valencia could be goal of the season and he might now have a claim to best assist too after his brilliant backheel teed up Casemiro to finish for a crucial 1-0 win.

Madrid’s advantage in the table, coming after Barca’s draw away at Celta Vigo on Saturday, is their biggest since February and puts them within sight of their second league title in eight years.

“It’s a very important win,” said Benzema. “I can’t say we don’t look at Barcelona, of course we do. But we’re focused on our own league. There are not many games left and every game now is a final.”

Zinedine Zidane said Eden Hazard took a knock to his ankle.

“He took a big hit but it’s just a knock I think,” said Zidane.

By the time his side play at home to Getafe on Thursday they might even have the chance to move further clear, if in-form Atletico Madrid avoid defeat on Tuesday at Camp Nou.

Barcelona certainly have the harder run-in, with a resurgent Villarreal side to follow Atletico and then local rivals Espanyol, who have shown they might yet finish strong after a determined performance under new coach Franciso Rufete.

Rufete, who was previously the club’s sporting director, is Espanyol’s fourth coach of the season after the sacking of Abelardo Fernandez on Saturday.

His task is now to make up a nine-point gap between his team in 20th and Celta in 17th.

They were undone by a piece of instinctive brilliance from Benzema, who has been the catalyst for Madrid sealing five wins out of five since La Liga restarted on June 11.

Sensational assists

Benzema’s backheel came on an afternoon of sensational assists after Villarreal’s Santi Cazorla earlier set up Gerard Moreno with an incredible, cushioned touch in their 2-0 win over Valencia.

“I have to give huge credit to Karim,” said Casemiro. “It was an incredible assist. We’re used to how good he is, I know the quality he possesses so I was expecting something. He heard me asking for it and he played it in a brilliant way.”

Madrid, though, were scruffy and ponderous at the RCDE Stadium, this perhaps their least impressive win over the last three weeks.

But solidity and steel ensured they came through unscathed and it was no surprise that defensive midfielder Casemiro, arguably the team’s best player this term, was named man of the match.

Espanyol were far from outplayed and might have been ahead if they had capitalised on a series of forays down Madrid’s left in the first half.

With Marcelo repeatedly caught up field, Wu Lei was able to sprint clear and his early pull-back was met by Sergi Darder at the back post, only for his shot to be blocked by Dani Carvajal.

Madrid were sloppy but created chances. Sergio Ramos headed over Casemiro’s smashed effort across goal.

A scrap in the penalty area ended with Diego Lopez palming over a half-volley from the quiet Eden Hazard.

Espanyol were hanging on for half-time and they were caught out by Benzema.

Ramos flicked on Marcelo’s crossfield pass and Benzema, moving away from goal, backheeled off the bounce through the legs of Bernardo Espinosa for the arriving Casemiro to finish.

Wu had another chance early in the second half but scuffed his shot and both teams seemed content to let the score lie until the latter stages, when Espanyol began to take more risks.

Their best chance came in the 87th minute when a free-kick evaded the entire Madrid defence but Leandro Cabrera was just short at the back post. Marcelo almost deflected into his own net for the last action before the whistle blew.

Earlier, Villarreal continued their surge towards Champions League qualification with a victory over Valencia, inspired by Cazorla.

The 35-year-old found himself under a 60-yard punt from his goalkeeper before cushioning the ball out of the air perfectly for Gerard Moreno to volley in.

Paco Alcacer also scored against his former club as Villarreal moved just three points behind fourth-placed Sevilla.

 

AFP

Benzema Delivers Again As Real Beat Espanyol

Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match against RCD Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on December 7, 2019.PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

 

Real Madrid were without Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale on Saturday but Karim Benzema stepped up again to ensure they beat struggling Espanyol in La Liga.

Benzema scored one and set up another in a 2-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Real wore an all-green kit to show support for this week’s Climate Summit in the city.

Victory means Zinedine Zidane’s side move to the top of the table, for a few hours at least, before Barcelona play later at home to Real Mallorca.

Espanyol, who have not won in six league games, stay 19th.

An ankle injury is likely to rule Hazard out of the season’s first Clasico on December 18 while Bale has a thigh problem and is also a concern ahead of that crunch game at Camp Nou.

But another excellent Benzema display will at least be of some consolation after he teed up Raphael Varane before scoring his 15th goal this term to put Espanyol out of sight.

“We’re talking about Karim a lot recently, in a good way,” said Zidane. “He’s getting older and that’s made a difference, his maturity.

“None of us are perfect. But he’s asked to chase and he does it. He’s asked to score and he does it. I can’t ask for more, only that he keeps doing it.”

Increasingly it looks like the winner of the Clasico will spend the Christmas break first in the table, with the top two pulling away from the likes of Atletico Madrid, who drew away at Villarreal on Friday.

Sevilla, in third, are four points behind Zidane’s side before they travel to Osasuna on Sunday.

– Vinicius praise –

The absence of Hazard and Bale meant Rodrygo came in on the right of the front three while Vinicius Junior was given a rare chance to stake a claim on the left.

Vinicius’ last start came in the defeat to Mallorca on October 19 and the 19-year-old, who has been out of favour under Zidane, impressed with a daring and dynamic performance.

“He always wants to score goals, that is his job, but we have to highlight everything else he did today,” said Zidane. “He had chances, played well offensively and defensively. And also after playing less recently. He has done well.”

Vinicius may now be given another outing against Club Brugge in the Champions League on Wednesday when Madrid are likely to rest key players given their qualification as runners-up is already guaranteed.

Vinicius looked eager to make an impact as he fired off an early shot from an acute angle and was then booked for a lunge at Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Espanyol had openings on the counter-attack, the best of them presented to Wu Lei, who was making history as the first-ever Chinese player to play at the Bernabeu. His header was saved by Thibaut Courtois.

Madrid’s goal came in the 37th minute and from an unlikely source as Varane stayed up following a corner and Benzema found him in space after bundling through on the edge of the box. With his left foot, Varane stabbed into the far corner.

Vinicius might have made it two after tearing clear on the break but failed to beat Lopez at his near post while shortly after half-time Lopez denied Benzema, who had also broken in behind.

Benzema missed another chance from a Vinicius cross but finally got his goal with 11 minutes left. He threaded in Fede Valverde with a smart reverse pass and then continued his run, before meeting the pull-back and finding the corner.

AFP

Espanyol Stun Atletico Madrid 3-0

Espanyol Stun Atletico Madrid 3-0
Atletico Madrid’s Spanish defender Juanfran wipes his face as Espanyol players celebrate their third goal during the Spanish league football match at the RCDE Stadium in Cornella de Llobregat on May 4, 2019. Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid missed the chance to ensure they finish above Real Madrid for a second consecutive year on Saturday after slipping to a surprise 3-0 defeat by Espanyol.

Atletico needed only a point to guarantee second place in La Liga, with two games left to play, but Espanyol were deserving winners at the RCDE Stadium thanks to Diego Godin’s own-goal and two strikes from Borja Iglesias, the second a penalty.

“The first goal changed the game, the second one made us worse,” said Atleti coach Diego Simeone.

“Espanyol were deserving winners. They were better and they had more chances,” he added.

READ ALSORobben, Ribery Help Bayern Go Five Points Clear In Bundesliga

The result means Barcelona, already champions, can move 12 points clear at the top of the table by beating Celta Vigo later on Saturday.

Real Madrid face Villarreal on Sunday but a third-place finish seems inevitable for Zinedine Zidane’s side. To overtake their city rivals, Real will need to win all three of their remaining games and hope Atletico lose both of their last two.

Espanyol’s victory is unlikely therefore to prevent Atleti finishing as Madrid’s top club in La Liga for a third time in four years, fourth in six, but there was a lack of spark that has undermined Simeone’s team too often this season.

Just as concerning have been the defensive errors, which Espanyol exploited to the full. Godin slid the ball into his own net before Juanfran conceded a late penalty for a needless push. In between, Borja had nipped between Godin and Filipe Luis with ease.

Like at Real, changes are expected at Atletico this summer but, unlike their neighbours, not all of them are likely to be within their control.

Lucas Hernandez has already agreed to join Bayern Munich, while uncertainty hangs over the futures of Godin, Filipe, Juanfran, Saul Niguez and Antoine Griezmann.

Jan Oblak has signed a new contract until 2023 but with a release clause included, reportedly set at 120 million euros.

Alvaro Morata will hope to stay after enjoying a resurgence since joining on loan from Chelsea in January and he might have given Atletico an early lead against Espanyol but was unable to find the space from the angle.

Instead, Espanyol took the lead at the end of the first half and while Godin turned it into his own net, it was Adria Pedrosa who made it. His driving run down the wing left Atletico’s defence scrambling and his fired cross panicked Godin at the near post.

Atletico hardly troubled their opponents, who doubled their lead shortly before the hour, Borja latching onto Oscar Melendo’s pass before finishing impressively past Oblak.

Oblak saved shots from Sergi Darder and Borja but Espanyol finally added a third after Juanfran knocked over Javi Puado in the 89th minute. Borja beat Oblak with the penalty.

Earlier, Rayo Vallecano were thrashed 4-1 by Levante to leave them on the brink of relegation from the top flight.

Rayo are now six points adrift of safety and can only catch Celta Vigo, who need just a point from their remaining three matches to survive.

AFP

Messi, Suarez Fit To Play Against Espanyol, Says Barcelona Coach

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi/AFP

 

Lionel Messi has overcome a groin injury while strike partner Luis Suarez has sufficiently recovered from a sprained ankle to play in this weekend’s derby against Espanyol, Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said on Friday.

Messi and Suarez were included in the squad of 18 ahead of Saturday’s La Liga game at the Camp Nou.

Ousmane Dembele is still absent, suffering from a thigh problem.

In his press conference, Valverde was cautious about Messi, who was forced to leave the Argentina squad last Sunday because of chronic groin pain.

Asked if his captain was 100 per cent, Valverde said: “We think he is, but, hey, Leo has been carrying this problem for some time and we have been working to allow him to recover.”

“It flared up with his national team. He’s had a rest and he is better. We’ll be careful with Messi because of the fundamental importance of the matches.”

READ ALSO: Ronaldo’s Absence Gives Kean Chance To Shine At Juventus

Suarez missed Uruguay’s recent games after twisting his ankle but Valverde said “the rest did him good.”

Valverde said he could not give a date for Dembele’s return. The Catalans visit Manchester United on April 10 for the first leg of a Champions League quarterfinal.

Before then, Barca have three Spanish league games in eight days.

They go into Saturday’s fixture 10 points ahead of second-place Atletico Madrid. On Tuesday, Valverde’s men travel down the Mediterranean coast to face Villarreal and then entertain Atletico next weekend.

“We have in mind that it is a derby, which is motivating for us and for them,” Valverde said.

“This week we have three League games and three difficult games. When you play for nine points in a week, at this stage of the season, it can be decisive.

“We know what we are playing this week.”

AFP

Espanyol Call For Politics-Free Home

Photo: rcdespanyol.com

Barcelona-based La Liga side Espanyol on Thursday called for supporters to make sure the political division sweeping Catalonia do not affect the atmosphere at upcoming home matches.

The Catalan regional parliament will meet on Thursday evening to decide how best to deal with the prospect of Spain’s central government seizing the region’s autonomous powers to stave off a push for independence for the region.

“We are concerned over the possibility that the existing political conflict will be reproduced in other areas of Catalan public life and, in particular, in the social sphere of our beloved RCD Espanyol,” the club said in a statement, signed by various supporters’ groups.

“We will work together restlessly to support our club and avoid this situation of public division arising at RCDE Stadium.

“We are aware, as the club itself, that will be a complex and continuous task, but together we will do it.”

Espanyol, who sit 13th in La Liga, have come under far less pressure to take a political stance than cross city rivals FC Barcelona.

Barca have publicly backed Catalonia’s right to self-determination in a referendum, but insisted they won’t take sides in the independence debate.

AFP

Bale Returns To Real Madrid Squad After Ankle Injury

Gareth Bale, Real Madrid, EspanyolReal Madrid Forward, Gareth Bale, is set to return from an ankle injury as  the Spanish giants host Espanyol on Saturday.

The 27-year-old had been sidelined since he underwent a surgery on the ankle tendon damage he suffered during a Champions League match against Sporting Lisbon in November 2016.

He also missed the midweek win over Napoli in the Champions League because of match fitness.

However, Coach Zinedine Zidane has listed Bale in his squad as they take on Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu.

La Liga: Madrid Extend Lead As Barcelona, Sevilla Drop Points

La Liga: Real Extend Lead As Barcelona, Sevilla Drop PointsReal Madrid have beaten Real Sociedad 3-0 to go four points clear at the top of La Liga.

The Spanish giants took advantage of Barcelona and Sevilla on Sunday as Cristiano Ronaldo played in Mateo Kovacic in the 38th minute.

Kovacic subsequently made a brilliant assist for Ronaldo to clip the ball over the visitor’s Geronimo Rulli.

Real Sociedad had Inigo Martinez sent off for two bookings before Alvaro Morata netted the third for the hosts.

On the flip side, Real Betis hosted Barcelona to a 1-1 draw while Espanyol beat visiting Sevilla 3-1.

Nigeria gets Catalonia friendly

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has lined up an international friendly match against Catalonia in preparation for the 2013 Africa cup of nations.

The game, against the side coached by Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, will take place at Estadi Cornellà el Prat, home ground of Spanish side Espanyol, on January the 2nd, 2013.

Catalonia, like other Spanish regions such as the Basque country, competes in friendlies against international teams but they are not permitted to play in official competitions.

NFF spokesperson, Ademola Olajire, said the match is another crucial step in the team’s preparations for the nation’s cup in South Africa.

It will be the second meeting between the West Africans and Catalonia.

The first match, in December 1998, ended in an emphatic 5-nil defeat for Nigeria.

C. Ronaldo Leads The Race For Europe’s Golden Shoe

Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo is at the top of the Golden Shoe table once again after another week of European football as he scored in his team’s 5-0 bashing of Espanyol this weekend. The strike was the Portuguese star’s 30th of the season, and keeps him four points clear of his closest rival, Lionel Messi. The Argentine, however, didn’t feature in Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Sporting Gijon due to suspension.

Robin van Persie, meanwhile, moved four points clear of Trans Narva’s goal-scoring machine Aleksandrs Cekulajevs, with two goals in the 2-1 win at Liverpool to claim third spot, with the Estonian league coming to a close and ending Cekulajev’s goal-scoring party.

Seydou Doumbia returned to CSKA Moscow following his unsuccessful Africa Cup of Nations campaign with Cote d’Ivoire, the Ivorian remains on 36 points, and was joined at sixth place by Antonio Di Natale. The diminutive Italian failed to score as Udinese were held to a goalless draw by Atalanta.

Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Mario Gomez didn’t net this weekend in Germany as their clubs suffered defeats in the Bundesliga, and make up the remainder of the top 10 with Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney.
The weightings are determined by the league’s ranking on the Uefa coefficients, which in turn depend on the results of each league’s clubs in European competition over the previous five seasons. Goals scored in the top five leagues according to the Uefa coefficients are multiplied by a factor of two, and goals scored in the leagues ranked six to 21 are multiplied by 1.5. Goals in all other leagues are all worth one single point.

This measure has prevented players from so-called weaker leagues from winning the European Golden Shoe, since a goal scored in, for example, Armenia, Estonia or Azerbaijan, carries less weight than a goal scored in Serie A, La Liga, the Bundesliga or the Premier League.

Between 1968 and 1991, football greats Eusebio, Gerd Muller, Ian Rush and Marco van Basten won the coveted trophy.
Players such as Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Forlan and Lionel Messi have won the European Golden Shoe in the past few seasons.

TOP FIVE LIST
NAME CLUB POINTS GOALS
1 Cristiano Ronaldo R/Madrid 60 30
2 Lionel Messi Barcelona 56 28
3 Robin Van Persie Arsenal 50 25
4 Aleksandrs Cekulajevs Trans Narva 46 23
5 Burak Yilmaz Trabzonspor 43.5 29

With Turkey falling under the second cadre in the European rankings, Trabzonspor’s Yilmaz claims fifth spot despite scoring more goals than Lionel Messi who sits at second.