La Liga: Blessing In Disguise? End Of Duopoly?

Both Real Madrid and Barcelona only managed a draw on Wednesday, but in completely different matches. Los Blancos were involved in a dire affair, while the Blaugranas played in a game of the season candidate.

Real Madrid were frustrated on the road in La Liga for the second time in a week in a draw against Racing Santander at El Sardinero. Jose Mourinho's side, who are attempting to end Barcelona's three-year stranglehold on the Spanish title, won their opening two games of the season but suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at Levante on Sunday. They again looked short of ideas and creativity at Racing's Sardinero stadium and barely threatened the home goal in a generally lacklustre display.

The home side had the best chance of the night early in the second half when Oscar Serrano fired a shot at the near post which demanded a first-class save from Iker Casillas. Madrid mustered a single shot on target, with Angel Di Maria's 30-yard effort tipped over by Tono 10 minutes after the break. And in the dying moments of the game the visitors were denied a penalty despite replays suggesting that Cristiano Ronaldo's free-kick was handballed in the area.

"This is two matches now without winning against opponents who to be honest do not compete with us. It's hard to take in but we have to lift our heads and we know that the image we are projecting is not the right one and is not up to the standard of Real Madrid," Casillas told Spanish television.

Meanwhile, a late Cesc Fabregas goal salvaged a 2-2 draw for Barcelona against Valencia in an entertaining match at the Mestalla. Valencia opened the scoring after just 12 minutes when Jeremy Mathieu surged down the left and hit a low cross into the space between the Barca defenders and Victor Valdez. The retreating Eric Abidal nudged the ball past Valdez and into the bottom corner when really he should have done better.

The lead was not to last long though. Just 90 seconds later Fabregas back-heeled a first time pass to Lionel Messi, who threaded a wonderful little ball between centre and left-back. Pedro, running in from the wing, put the ball past Vicente Guaita at his near post. Valencia broke down Barcelona's right hand side constantly in the first 45 minutes, and it wasn't long before they again scored via that route. Mathieu once more was the provider, as his cross beat the despairing lunge of Abidal and Pablo Hernandez was left all alone eight yards out to ram the ball past Valdez who dived the wrong way.

Valencia missed a golden opportunity to double their lead after yet more brilliant work from Mathieu as he skipped past the challenge of Javier Mascherano and drove into the area. His low centre got a touch from Valdez and that was enough to cause Roberto Soldado to miscue from all of four yards when in front of an open net. The second half was a tamer affair, with Valencia more content to sit and absorb Barcelona's attacks. Mascherano hit the angle of post and bar with a thunderous shot midway through the half and Messi also wasted an opportunity after getting through on goal.

It was left to Fabregas to do the damage just a couple of minutes later. He received a dinked pass from Messi and was one-on-one with Guaita. The ex-Arsenal man took his time and calmly slotted past the motionless goalkeeper. It was backs to the wall for the last 10 minutes for Valencia and three chances in a matter of seconds went begging as David Villa, Adriano and Messi all failed to take advantage of openings. Jordi Alba was sent off for the home side in added time for an incident off the ball, but by now Valencia had weathered the storm and were grateful to hold out for the draw.

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