The final two spots for a chance to play in the UEFA Women’s Champions League are still very much in play for six teams in the Primera Iberdrola but on weekend that saw many of them drop points, Real Madrid Femenino collected all three against Valencia CF Femenino.
Las Galaticas came into this match after a 4-1 defeat at the hands of likely league champions FC Barcelona Femení and knew that nothing less than a win had to be found against Valencia. The visitors, currently sitting in ninth, did not make it easy for the team from the capital but thanks to three goals from Kosovare Asllani, Madrid turned out to be the victors on the day.
The match started off as lively as you could want from as football game as both sides traded chances and great attacking movement, a theme that would remain throughout the match. In the third minute of the game, Valencia almost caught Real Madrid unawares as Candela Andújar fell inches short from giving Valencia the lead. Ellen Jansen had flicked the ball towards Andújar from a throw in and the wide forward, who had drifted in unnoticed, crashed her first time volley off the crossbar.
Not to be outdone, Real Madrid followed that with a close chance of their own. Two minutes after Andújar had found the crossbar, Teresa Abelleira hit the post. Kenti Robles, Madrid’s mauruding full back, got free down the right flank and found Abelleira at the far post. The forward then proceeded to hit the post with her effort and though Asllani was quickest to the rebound, the goal was ruled out for an offside. The next big chance for the hosts came in the 22nd minute when captain Ivana Andrés was next to see her effort hit the crossbar. Real Madrid had managed to recycle possession well from a corner and Andrés showed great footwork to create some space for herself. Unfortunately for the defender, her right-footed effort hit the crossbar and Valencia were able to clear the danger.
Real Madrid’s 4-4-2 diamond matched up well against Valencia’s 4-2-3-1 but it also gave the away side enough space to exploit, which they tried to do over the course of the game. It made for an enthralling encounter and one that would be decided by whichever team proved to clinical enough in front of goal.
Up stepped Swedish international Kosovare Asllani.
The Swede has been instrumental in Real Madrid’s rise. From being the team’s first big signing to now being their top scorer and top assist-maker. As long as Asllani’s playing well, Real Madrid are playing well, and with Sofia Jakobsson not available at the moment, Asllani’s even more important to how David Aznar wants his side to play.
On Saturday, Asllani proved to be the difference as she scored the fastest hat-trick in women’s football to help her team to a big win in their season.
Asllani’s first came in the 67th minute when she sent in a free-kick from an acute angle that somehow found its way past Valencia’s goalkeeper Enith Salón. It looked like one of the Valencia players may have glanced it past her goalkeeper but Asllani was awarded the goal either way. Her second, mere seconds later, was a product of strength and cheekiness as she out-muscled María Jiménez and then proceeded to chip Salón with ease. It was a finish of pure quality and one that showed just how confident Asllani is at the moment in her own ability. Two minutes later, Marta Cardona (who has been great value to watch this season as well) jinxed past her marker before finding Asllani for a tap in and the Swede’s third.
Valencia pulled one back almost right after the kick off through Jansen but they could not overcome the three goal deficit they had set themselves up against. Despite that, it was a goal that Valencia had earned through their play and willingness to keep coming at the Madrid backline.
The win puts Madrid in third, two points ahead of the chasing pack and with a game in had to boot. After already having faced their biggest foe twice (Barcelona), Real Madrid will be looking to push forward now and secure their spot in next season’s Champions League. They have the talent to do so and if they keep playing like the way they did against Valencia, I wouldn’t bet against them.
- Levante UD Femenino are still in second despite their draw against Rayo Vayecano Femenino. Levante had to settle for a 1-1 draw thanks to Ana Lucía de Teresa goal in the 52nd minute after María Méndez had put Rayo ahead in the first half. Levante are still in a great position to cap off a wonderful season with Champions League qualification but they will be highly unhappy with slipping up against Rayo like this.
- UD Granadilla Tenerife and Atlético Madrid Femenino played out a 2-2 draw that did neither team any good as they look to try and chase down Barcelona, Levante and Real Madrid. Raquel Peña put the hosts ahead twice with a goal in the fourth minute and a penalty in the 72nd minute but Atlético clawed their way back each time. Ajara Nchout tied things up in the 28th minute but it took late game heroics from Deyna Castellanos to keep Atlético from leaving the Canary Islands with nothing. The draw puts Atléti in fourth and Granadilla in seventh, two and four points off respectively from the top three. Granadilla will feel better about their chances of catching up as they have two games in hand whereas Atlético have now played a game more than Real Madrid. Both teams aren’t out of it yet but they can’t afford to drop too many points now.
- The other two teams currently fighting for a place in the top three, Real Sociedad Femenino and Madrid CFF Femenino, also played each other and ended it up with a draw that neither team would have wanted at the start. Sara González opened the scoring in the 29th minute but Kiana Palacios put Real back on level terms at the end of the first half. Neither side could find the winning goal despite Real going down to ten players after Núria Mendoza was sent off in the 71st minute, so they both had to settle for a draw. Madrid CFF sit level on points with Atlético but are in fifth place due to goal difference while Real sit in sixth, four points behind their opponents this weekend. They both, like Atlético and Granadilla, are well within their rights to think they can finish in the top three but their opportunities are growing slimmer especially if they continue to drop points like this.