Gareth Bale heroics Memorable Football Week-endSunday December 20, 2015 became a red letter day for European and South American football with entertaining fixtures at several venues. The major talking point was the 10-goal tally amassed by Real Madrid against Rayo Vallecano after home fans began jeering Madrid stars for trailing 1-2 at the initial stage. But Gareth Bale broke the hoodoo by scoring four goals, Karim Benzema got a hat-trick and Cristiano Ronaldo finished with a brace. That historic game brought Real Madrid to within two points of La Liga leaders FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Whether or not Real Madrid will end as toppers of the Spanish League is a moot point but the Gareth Bale heroics certainly delighted home supports at Santiago Bernabeu after initial jitters. In English Premier League, Liverpool suffered a 0-3 debacle against Watford, who continued with their unusual run of form and the victory over Liverpool was their fourth consecutive win in the League. In the Italian League, Gonzalo Higuain crossed the 50-goal mark for Napoli in their 3-1 triumph over Atalanta. It was Hiquain’s 86th appearance in Serie A matches and taking together all five major European Leagues, the Argentinian is now second only to the 18-goal tally this season, recorded by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund. And as already reported on these pages by football specialist John Welsh in an earlier article in, FC Barcelona clinched the FIFA Club World Cup by defeating Argentina’s River Plate 3-0 in the Japanese city of Yokohama on December 20, 2015.

In Spain’s La Liga, it was after 55 years that a team had reached a double-digit score, when Real Madrid defeated Rayo Vallecano 10-2. Ironically, the home team was jeered, when the visitors took a 2-1 lead in the 12th minute. The game started off well for Real, when Danilo put them 1-0 ahead in the 3rd minute but two goals in 10th (Amaya) and 12th minute(Jozabed) put pressure on Real. In the 25th minute, however, Gareth Bale restored parity with a smart header before Ronaldo made it 3-2, when Rayo conceded a penalty and CR7 converted. By this time Rayo were already down to 9 men and Real Madrid took full advantage. At halftime, Madrid were 4-2 as Bale had already scored his second goal, 4 minutes before the break. Three minutes after restart, Karim Benzema made it 5-2 and it was 6-2 in the 53rd minute, when Ronaldo headed a cross from James Rodriguez. Bale completed his hat-trick in 61st minute, when the Welshman was set up by Ronaldo. After Bale scored another goal in the 70th minute, Benzema also recorded another hat-trick by scoring goal no. 9 goal no.10 and completed the Rayo rout. It was only the fourth time in La Liga history that Real Madrid had scored 10 goals since they had beaten Elche 11-2 in 1960; Barcelona 11-1 in 1943 and Las Palmas 10-1 in 1959. For Gareth Bale, it was the first time in his entire league career that he finished with 4 goals in a match.

Liverpool  Memorable Football Week-end

On the same day, Liverpool were handed a 3-0 defeat by an impressive Watford, who recorded their fourth consecutive EPL victory. Watford are the newly promoted EPL campaigners but they played like veterans against their more celebrated superiors. Liverpool’s regular goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had to miss the game due to a hamstring injury and Adam Bogdan played instead. Bogdan erred in the third minute, when he dropped a corner instead of cleanly catching the ball and Watford’s Nathan Ake was nearby to shoot an easy goal. That set the tone of the match as Watford doubled their lead in 15th minute through Odion Ighalo. The Nigerian scored once again 5 minute from close to finish the Liverpool rout. The Nigerian thus played another stellar role just as he has done in 4 out of his last 5 EPL appearances for the Club. Since that victory, Watford have played two more matches. In their away game on December 26 in London, Watford held Chelsea 2-2 and lost 1-2 at home against Tottenham Hotspur on December 28.

Making his 86th appearance for Napoli in Serie A matches on December 20, Gonzalo Higuain scored his 50th and 51st goals in a 3-1 victory over Atalanta. It was this season’s fifth brace for Higuain, who had already scored 16 goals in 17 outings. Only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Borussia Dortmund is ahead of Higuain with 18 goals if all five European leagues are considered. With 35 Serie A points in 17 games this season, Napoli are tied at the second spot in with Fiorentina while Inter Milan are the table toppers with 36 points.

FC Barcelona Memorable Football Week-end

Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona had a great tour of Japan during which he scored 5 goals in two matches of the FIFA Club World Cup. The Uruguayan set a new single-edition record in the tournament and became the only player ever to score a hat-trick at the competition. All three goals in Barcelona’s 3-0 semifinal win over Guangzhou Evergrande came from Suarez in a match that didn’t have Lionel Messi. Suarez scored two more in their 3-0 final victory over Argentinian club River Plate. More on this match can be found in the article posted by John Welsh on these pages and titled as; “Barcelona beat River Plate to confirm the UEFA superiority in FIFA Club World Cup”. The Uruguayan became the third player after Italian Filippo Inzaghi in 2007 and Lionel Messi in 2011 to score braces in FIFA Club World Cup finals but the only one to score 5 goals in the competition.

In another major achievement on that famous Sunday, Colombian club Atletico Nacional reached a landmark of winning 15 league titles, a feat no other club has achieved. The Medellin Club defeated Atletico Junior 3-2 on penalties in the Liga Aguilla final and went past Millonarios, who held the record of winning the Colombian league 14 times.