Things are really starting to heat up in Spain’s La Liga, and the battle for first place has taken yet another turn. Following FC Barcelona‘s surprise home loss to eighth place Valencia CF, Madrid based clubs Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid had the chance to take top spot in Spain, pushing Catalan rivals Barcelona down to third place.
Atletico, who have slowly been erasing their title of perennial underachievers, were determined to take advantage of Barcelona’s loss and took first place after thrashing Real Sociedad 4-0. With Real pushed down to third place, their game away at Basque side Athletic Bilbao took on added importance. Bent on making sure their Madrid rivals would only take top spot temporarily, Real took the lead midway through the second half when youngster Jese scored his fifth goal in all competitions.
Bilbao, who had been controlling the majority of the match, are no pushovers at home, and it only took them eight minutes to level the score when substitute Ibai Gomez scored a superb half volley on basically his first touch of the ball. Real let their frustrations get the better of them after noticing that a point would not be enough to regain first place and were reduced to 10 when their main man Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off only two minutes after Bilbao’s goal.
Following a push from Bilbao’s Carlos Gurpegi, Ronaldo swiped his hand across the face of the Bilbao captain who fell to the ground in a heap. Although light, the contact was enough for the referee to brandish a card, meaning Ronaldo will miss Los Blancos’ next home match against fifth place Villarreal.
It was the Portuguese international’s seventh red card of his career, and Madrid would have to play the remaining 15 minutes without their leading goalscorer. Despite the disadvantage, Real held off a late Bilbao onslaught and currently occupy third spot in the table, tied in points with Barcelona but behind on goal difference. The gap between first and third is currently three points, and the title may come down to the result of the Madrid derby in early March which could potentially set up a grand stand finish when Barca face Atletico in the last game of the season.