Saturday, June 9, 2007

Penultimate Day of La Liga = Que Ridiculo

Going into today, with two games to play, the La Liga table looked like this:

Real Madrid 72 pts
Barcelona 72 pts
Sevilla 70 pts

Although Barcelona has a massive advantage in goal difference {+41 to Madrid's 24}, if those two finish tied on points then Madrid will be champions because the first tiebreaker in La Liga is head to head results {Madrid won in Madrid, and they tied 3-3 in Barcelona}.

Next week the big two play joke teams, so most people think that the league will be decided today as both Real and Barca have difficult matches, with Real Madrid on the road to their bogey side Real Zaragoza and Barcelona home to their city rivals Espanyol in the Barcelona derby. Additionally Sevilla were away to Real Mallorca. To make things even more dramatic, all three matches were played at the same time.

Real Madrid were live on GolTV, and I was planning on watching Barca on tape delay afterwards, but soon it was apparent that would be fruitless, as GolTV were doing split screen live look-ins at the Barca match.

30 minutes in and Barca go down 1-0 to a goal from Milito. The drama begins: major advantage Real Madrid. But not a minute later and Zaragoza win a penalty from Madrid, which they promptly bury. Both teams are now down 0-1. But we haven't even really gotten started.

Just before halftime, in the 43rd minute, Barca equalize when Lionel Messi performs the Hand Of God remix 2007. So they are tied at half and Madrid are losing; if it stands then Barca will be leaders with one week left.

In the 57th minute Messi scores again {this one legitimate} to but Barca up 2-1. But even before they finish celebrating the goal, old horseface himself, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, scores for Madrid and they are level at 1-1. Still advantage Barca, but very much game on. In the 64th minute Milito scores a wonderful 2nd goal, putting Zaragoza back up 2-1. Now Barca really are in the drivers seat, as the games wane on past the 80th minute it looks like Barca will go into the final week of the season with a 3 point lead.

And it remains that way into the final minute of each match. So at this point, if you are a Barca fan, after considering next weeks matchups you have to be thinking that the only way you won't win La Liga this season is if 1) Espanyol score a goal in the final minute AND 2) if Real Madrid score a goal in the final minute.

And damn if that didn't happen.

Van Nistelrooy strikes in the 89th minute to get Madrid a 2-2 draw and 1 point. Not a minute later, Espanyol score an equalizer in extra time, right at the death, to make that match a 2-2 draw. And with Sevilla drawing 0-0, after that incredible roller coaster ride, we're right back where we started, which I suppose makes the roller coaster analogy perfect.

Barcelona 2-2 Espanyol highlights

Real Zaragoza 2-2 Real Madrid highlights

Two additional things made today beyond remarkable. First, this is like the 4th time in the last 8 matches that Real Madrid have scored a goal at the very death to turn a loss into a draw or a draw into a win. It's really unbelievable. Second, two goals in two different matches in the final minute to decide the league is right up there with Anfield 89, when Arsenal won the league by scoring a goal in the final minute of extra time, which is the greatest and most dramatic finish in English league history. The only thing that prevents today from topping Anfield 89 would be if today were the final set of matches in the league instead of the penultimate ones. Even still, this is the stuff of legend and if Real Madrid go on to win the league next week with both teams tied, the final moment today will go down in Spanish football lore in the same way that The Immaculate Reception or Montana to Clark went down in NFL lore.

Not much more to say than que ridiculo.

AS of this moment, the La Liga table looks like:

Real Madrid 73 pts
Barcelona 73 pts
Sevilla 71 pts

So it all comes down now to next Sunday: Real Madrid are home to 11th place Mallorca, Barcelona are away to last place and already relegated Gimnastic de Tarragona, and Sevilla are home to 6th place {and fighting for a UEFA Cup spot} Villarreal. All three matches kick off at 8 a.m. PST.

We know that with the head to head tiebreaker, the if Real and Barca finish tied then Real are winners. But what if all 3 finish with 74 points? We know that Real beat Barca and drew with them, giving them the head to head nod. However, Barca and Sevilla split with each winning at home, and Real Madrid and Sevilla did the same, each winning at home. So how would they break the 3 way tie? Would they do a mini league between these three and consider each team's results against the other two {Real Madrid would win this}? Or do they just go to goal difference {Barca would win this}?

What is Barcelona and Sevilla finish tied? They split head to head (Barca 3-1 Sevilla, Sevilla 2-1 Barca}, but I'm not sure what the 2nd tiebreaker is. Is it goal difference {Barca +41, Sevilla +30}, or is it something like goal difference in the head to head aggregate result {Barca 4-3 Sevilla agg.}? Either way {if either of these is right} Barca would be champions.

How about if Real Madrid and Sevilla finish tied? They split head to head {Sevilla 2-1 RM, RM 3-2 Sevilla}, but again I'm not sure what the 2nd tiebreaker is. Is it goal difference {Sevilla +30, RM +24}, or with goal difference in head to head even would it then go to road goals in the head to head aggregate result {Sevilla 2, RM 1}? Again, not sure, but in either of these is correct than Sevilla would be champions.

Does your head hurt? Mine too.

So let's just sit back and wait for Moin to come through in the comments section and give us the definitive tiebreaker answers, as I'm sure he will.


Moin said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence there. But to be honest, I don't really know what would happen if there is a 3 way tie atop La Liga. So I went around looking it up. It took a while, since everybody was so obsessed with the 2 way tie that nobody addressed the 3 way tie situation (the 3rd link on my google search was this entry, just so you know). The only place I found it is here.

Thank goodness for google translations.

But in case of a 3 way tie, the first tiebreaker is a mini-league, then goal differential in said mini-league, then goal differential overall, then goals scored overall, then lastly fair play standings.

If they do use a mini-league format, then Real Madrid would be top, with 7 points in 4 matches, Sevilla would be number 2 with 6 points, and Barca would be third with 4.

One extra note I took out of that page is the 2 way tiebreaker between RM and Barca isn't a strict head-to-head tiebreak. It's a goal differential in head-to-head matchups that's the tiebreaker.

I wonder how long it's gonna take for Barca to produce another split screen comparison between this Messi goal and the original Maradona one? My money is on the over, as in "never". The thing is, if not for Messi, Barca wouldn't even be in this thing. RM was leading 10 men Barca 3-2 at Nou Camp before Messi completed his hat trick in added time. So just another example of Messi claiming this season as his own. Oh, and the funny thing about his Palm of God goal is it seemed to have turned some public sentiment for RM for the first time in... well forever. I guess the English just have a visceral reaction to the sight of a short Argentine scoring a goal with his hands like that.

Besides the absolute craziness of what happened between the 2 top teams, some other craziness happened in La Liga last night too. Levante beat Valencia 4-2 in a match that saw 7 yellow cards and 4 red cards (including 2 straight reds). Osasuna beat Real Betis 5-0 away in a match that featured a pitch invasion by disgusted Betis fans.

God I love La Liga.

Moin said...

Oh, here a question that's worth considering: what are the Spanish FA going to do about Messi?

I know they can't go back and take the goal away, as it would be massively unfair to the way the game was played. But since it would have been a borderline red card offense (according to a strict reading of the rules, it is a straight red, but nobody ever enforces football rules according to the book anyways), do you think it is possible to suspend Messi next match? I know it won't make much of a difference against Gimnastic but I think it would be somewhat fair.

In the end, this is pure speculations since I don't really think the Spanish FA will do anything because it was not caught on the field. It seems like FIFA and FAs are willing to rescind or overturn cards that were handed out, but unwilling to give out deserving cards that were not caught on the field. So I guess it is a moot point in the end.

DC Trojan said...

This makes my head hurt. Partly because of the permutations, partly because part of me would be entertained to see Real Madrid take La Liga off a move or a goal from Beckham, and then watch the RM governing monkeys writhe in trying to keep that midfield media conglomerate away from his only natural retirement destination in Los Angeles. And how absurd is that?

Besides, at some level, what's worse - consistent ho-hum play just enough to win games (Real), or wildly erratic results (Barca?) Hard to know.

Kanu said...

Even as I like Barca, I think the coolest would be if Real & Barca both ate it and Sevilla won, giving them the title. Watching the dueling media meltdowns {Marca/Mundo Deportivo} would be wildly entertaining.

Of course the odds of that happening are significantly more remote than the odds of RM & Espanyol both scoring in the last minute on Saturday.

el pichichi said...

I was at a local watering hole watching this and towards the end I'm going crazy. The few others who were there had no idea what all the fuss is about (I'm in SEC country, mind you)....luckily the bar-keep knows me so I carried on as if I was in my own living room. Great stuff.

Also, to what DC Trojan said, I'm afraid Real has jinxed themselves with this Beckham thing. Karma wants its pound of flesh for that shameful behavior (and I'm a Real fan...)

Keep up the good work, Kanu.

Moin said...

Well, to clear things up a bit more

Sevilla wins if:
1)Sevilla wins, Barca loses, and RM doesn't win.
2)That's it, it's the only way they win.

Barca wins if:
1)Barca wins and RM draws.
2)Barca draws and RM loses.

All other scenarios leads to RM being crowned champions.

As plodding as RM have been, I don't think their play have been ho-hum, by all accounts, they dominated the recent matches, just that the pay offs have come very late. Not to mention RM has, by far, the best away record in La Liga.

But Madrista or not, to be fair, the most consistently excellent team in Spain this season has been Sevilla and it would be justice if they do end up winning it all. But their rather pedestrian performance right after the winter break, where they drew Betis and Sociedad and lost to Gimnastic, cost them.

Oh, and just a note, it seems like Kanoute and Diarra will be missing the final weekend for Mali's qualifying match in the African Nations' Cup. I wonder if Eto'o and Cameroon have a match?

DC Trojan said...

You know, I could get behind Sevilla winning the title, just for a change of pace.

Kanu said...

See, Moin, I said you would come through, and you did.

El Pichichi- gracias, senor. And congrats on scoring more goals than anyone else in La Liga, this year and any other.

Hopefully, however it turns out, it will be as dramatic and entertaining as the last month or so has been, although the chances are that is may very well be anticlimactic, especially after last week. Hopefully it won't be, but there's always the Gold Cup... ;)