There have not been many weekends in recent Spanish La Liga history when both Real Madrid and Barcelona have suffered defeat but on the first weekend of 2015 after the Christmas break, that is exactly what happened as Atletico Madrid closed within one point of leaders Real following their 3-1 home win against Levante. Defeats for Barcelona and Real Madrid against Real Sociedad and Valencia respectively have opened the Spanish title race to at least the first five teams and that has not happened for many years in that country.
For Real Sociedad manager David Moyes, it was just his second victory in seven matches during his brief tenure in the hot seat of the San Sebastian based team and the 1-0 win was achieved via a Jordi Alba own goal in just the second minute. Real have enjoyed a decent record in recent seasons against their Catalan visitors and had won the previous two encounters at the Anoeta Stadium but it was surprising that Lionel Messi and Neymar were introduced only as second half substitutes on Sunday evening. Both players had been afforded an extended break in South America during Christmas.
Yet Barcelona now join Elche and both Atletico and Real Madrid as the only teams to have been beaten by Real Sociedad at Anoeta in La Liga games this season with Moyes now keen to establish the Basque outfit in amongst the top six teams of the league.
Real Sociedad’s first home league victory of the season had been earned against Real Madrid via a 4-2 scoreline after being two goals adrift at one stage. Carlos Ancelotti’s team then lost a local derby at home to Atletico before embarking upon a 22 match winning sequence in all competitions before the short winter break.
When Cristiano Ronaldo opened the scoring from a penalty within 14 minutes of the match at Valencia on Sunday evening, another victory for Real Madrid was expected especially with a strong team selected by Ancelotti. However, fourth placed Valencia were not to be denied as second half goals from Antonio Barragan and Nicolas Otamendi clinched a 2-1 victory for the hosts.
Real Madrid lost two of their first three matches of the first half of the campaign so they will not be duly concerned by this loss as they still retain the league leadership with a game in hand over their title challengers.
With just six points separating Real from fifth placed Sevilla, the 2014-15 La Liga title race could yet prove to be one of the best for many years and more intrigue awaits next weekend when Barcelona host Atletico Madrid. However, the shock results of this weekend may also serve as a reminder to the Spanish football giants that three points can no longer be taken for granted and a return to their more conventional comfortable victories could follow in the coming weeks.
It is to be hoped that this will not be the case.