With the Primera Iberdrola title still in sight, Atlético de Madrid Femenino knew that any slip ups could not happen as they looked to come back from the Christmas break ready to chase down leaders FC Barcelona Femení. They had an away match lined up against Rayo Vallecano Femenino, billed as an opportunity to make it three wins in three for Atlético Madrid but Rayo had other plans.
The match started off with the former champions pushing forward and dominating proceedings. Silvia Meseguer and Amanda Sampedro controlled the midfielding, dictating the tempo of the match and finding openings to slip their forwards through on goal. That dominance paid off in the 21st minute when Meseguer provided a great cross into the box that Ludmila was on hand to finish off. You could have been forgiven into thinking that Atléti would find another goal in quick succession and end this match as a contest but it was the home side that found the next goal of the game. In the 26th minute, Sheila García’s persistence paid off as she hunted down Elena Linari’s clearance and found the back of the net.
From then on, it became a battle of attrition for Atléti and one they did not win. Charlyn Corral and Ángela Sosa could have found a second goal for the visitors in the first half but failed to produce on each occasion. Linari also had a go from distance in the second half that brought out a great save by Patricia Larque but again, Atléti could not break the deadlock. For all of their constant pressure and chances, Rayo Vallecano withstood the Atléti barrage for 70+ minutes and hung on for a draw.
Atléti manager Pablo López looked at Rayo’s pitch as a big reason why his team could not find the winner citing it as a “small pitch with artificial grass”. He’s not wrong there but if he truly wants to find the reason why his team are now seven points behind Barcelona, he needs to look at the lack of ruthlessness in front of goal that his team exhibited. Rayo are not world beaters but they know how to utilise their strengths and their pitch to their advantage. They did so on Sunday afternoon and put an even bigger dent in Atléti’s title challenge.
- 32,068 showed up at the San Mamés Stadium as Athletic Bilbao welcomed champions FC Barcelona to the Basque region. The home fans were loud and cheered on their team enthusiastically but Barça had too much class to be swayed by the vociferous crowd. Mariona found the opener in the 64th minute and then Asisat Oshoala guaranteed the points with a brace. The Catalans continue to be the cream of the crop in the league and it will take some doing to stop them.
- Sporting Club de Huelva found a much needed win to lift themselves out of the relegation zone. They trounced UD Granadilla Tenerife 3-1, picking up their first win since the end of November. They slide above Granadilla into eleventh and are two points away from the relegation zone. More of that kind of a performance will see them stay in the Primera Iberdrola next season.
- Levante UD Femenino are pushing for a surprise appearance in the UEFA Women’s Champions League next season as they picked up an important win against Real Betis Féminas. Levante had to wait until the second half to turn their dominance into goals and once they did, they scored two within a minute of each other. Maitane Millán and Eva Maria Navarro scored in the 48th and 49th minutes respectively, putting Levante in the driving seat for the rest of the match. With only four points between them and Atléti, the impossible could become possible should they keep this form up.
- New year, new Tacón? That remains to be seen but a 5-1 win at home against Sevilla FC Femenino will give the CD Tacón fans some belief in their team. Chioma Ubogagu is enjoying life in Spain, currently leading her team with five goals and regularly looking dangerous whenever Tacón’s attack clicks into gear. The Madrid-based side are still a long way off from truly challenging the likes of Atléti and Barça but they are putting in the right building blocks to be a great team in the future.