Sunday, October 16, 2011

Levante remains unbeatable in La Liga

Levante extended their remarkable early-season run when they beat 10-man Malaga 3-0 on Sunday to rejoin champions Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

The tiny Valencia-based club, whose annual budget of around 20 million euros ($27.7 million) is dwarfed by Barca's approximate 500 million, took the lead through Jose Barkero in the 14th minute before Malaga goalkeeper Willy Caballero was shown a straight red card for handling outside his area.

His replacement Ruben saved the resulting free kick but Juanlu, one of a slew of Levante players over 30 years old, was quickest to react and poked the loose ball in to double the home side's lead with just over half an hour gone.

A Ruben howler gifted Levante a third in the 41st minute when he failed to clear and Arouna Kone, who scored the only goal in Levante's shock 1-0 win over Real Madrid last month, broke clear to tap the ball into an empty net.

Levante's fifth successive victory put them level on 17 points with Barca, who are top on goal difference after seven matches.

Ambitious and free-spending Malaga, owned by a member of the Qatar royal family and with a budget of around 150 million euros, are sixth on 13 points.

Levante's coach Juan Ignacio Martinez told a news conference it was important to remain realistic about what the club could achieve this season and said avoiding relegation was still the main objective.

"We have to enjoy this but we know that the league is very long and we are bound to suffer accumulating points," he said.

"We will achieve our goal of 42 points (to avoid relegation) in April, although hopefully I am wrong about that," he added.
Levante (3): Munua; Nano, Ballesteros, Juanfran, Javi Venta; Farinos, Iborra (79' Pallardo), Juanlu (66' El Zhar), Valdo; Koné, Barkero (70' Rubén Suárez)

Málaga (0): Caballero; Mathijsen, Demichelis, Monreal, Gamez; Maresca (29' Rubén), Toulalan, Isco, Cazorla (45' Sebastian Fernandez), van Nistelrooy (45' Rondon), Joaquín

Red Card: Caballero (27')
Goalscorers: Barkero (14' 1-0), Juanlu (30' 2-0), Koné (41' 3-0)

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