Navas shows up Ronaldo while Ter Stegen does little to quiet his critics
Week four of La Liga action saw Cristiano Ronaldo get upstaged at the Bernabeu, while questions continue to hang over the head of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
1. Keylor upstages Cristiano at Bernabeu
"The unexpected hero," was Marca's match report headline on Real Madrid's fortunate 1-0 win over Granada on Saturday. Fans (and reporters) headed to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu expecting to see Cristiano Ronaldo's 500th career goal and Raul Gonzalez's all-time Madrid goals record to fall.
Ronaldo, this time, was upstaged by Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who made three superb saves on the way to keeping a fifth straight clean sheet. Granada made him work much harder than previous opponents this season. Rafa Benitez's team was also lucky in that Isco was offside in build-up to Karim Benzema's ultimately winning goal, while the visitors' Youssef El-Arabi had a perfectly good strike ruled out by the officials at 0-0.
Navas had been minutes away from leaving the club on transfer deadline day, but the now infamous David De Gea bungle left him still as Madrid's No. 1, and the Bernabeu again sang his name on Saturday.
"The night of the window closing was difficult for me, but that has passed now," Navas said afterward. "Now I just have to focus on the present, and the coach trusts in me. I've had the chance to stay and want to give my best now."
De Gea's decision to renew his Manchester United contract was also surely a relief for the Costa Rica international. Ronaldo will soon be back in the headlines for sure, but Saturday was Keylor's day at the Bernabeu.
2. Ter Stegen doubts continue
Even though Lionel Messi scored twice and missed a penalty, a goalkeeper was also in the spotlight after Barcelona's 4-1 win at home to Levante on Sunday, a result that kept the Blaugrana outfit top of the table with a 100 percent record.
With his team cruising at 3-0 up midway through the second half, Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen came for a cross and missed, giving Levante substitute Victor Casadesus an easy finish into an unguarded net. The mistake came as Ter Stegen's game is being analysed closely with the German having been chipped from long distance twice already this season, most recently by Roma's Alessandro Florenzi during the Champions League in midweek.
Florenzi's wonder goal could be excused, or at least explained, by Ter Stegen needing to sweep behind Barca's usually high defensive line. But this was a simple-enough cross and he decided to punch and missed it completely, adding to a feeling that the 23-year-old is not exactly making the best of a chance to impress in all competitions with the team's other senior keeper Claudio Bravo currently out injured.
Ter Stegen has conceded, one way or another, in each of his games this season. His last clean sheet was eight matches ago in April's Champions League semifinal first leg vs. Bayern Munich. The German could really do with a shutout in Wednesday's tricky trip to unbeaten-so-far Celta Vigo.
3. Atletico show attacking strength in depth
Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone started both his big-summer attacking signings on Saturday at Eibar, giving a chance to €55 million worth of talent in Jackson Martinez and Luciano Vietto.
Both players were then withdrawn with the game goalless at half-time, with Fernando Torres and Oliver Torres sent on. An injury to Koke soon afterward brought Angel Correa on as Atletico's final substitute, and the three replacements were all involved in both Atletico's goals in their 2-0 win.
Correa scored with his first touch, from Fernando Torres' excellent set-up, and the Argentine youngster repaid the favour setting up the former Liverpool and Chelsea man for the well-taken clincher. Oliver's playmaking had also been key as Eibar's stubborn resistance was broken down.
"After the break we went for people who could break the game in attack," Simeone said afterward. "Oliver gave us more on the ball, and Correa made the difference in a difficult and tough game. Great players are there for that."
Last week's home defeat to Barca was an early-season blow, but Atletico's strength in depth in attack should be very useful over the course of the campaign.
4. Valencia and Sevilla not scoring so many
Valencia fans are not happy, and there were whistles again around Mestalla after Saturday afternoon's 0-0 home draw with Real Betis, who had played almost the entire second half with 10 men for the second consecutive week.
Los Che have scored just two goals in their first four La Liga games, albeit while conceding just one and staying unbeaten on the way to picking up six points. But they were also beaten 2-3 at home by Zenit Saint Petersburg in their Champions League group opener on Wednesday, and supporters who were looking forward to an exciting 2015-16 are very disappointed.
Chants of "Nuno vete ya" ("Nuno out") rang around Mestalla at full-time on Saturday. It looks as though the Portuguese coach is being targeted more as a symbol of growing discontent with owner Peter Lim. The Singapore billionaire has spent big on some players since taking over 18 months ago, but there was a distinct lack of new high-profile attackers last summer.
THE BEST OF ESPN FC
- Bell: Liverpool fans make themselves heard
- Cox: Leicester improving | Why Poch should stay
- Okwonga: Man United's market | City's title hopes
- Laurens: PSG's pre-UCL issues | Hertha's curse
- Highlights (U.S. only): Stuttgart 1-3 BVB
- FC TV: Champions League W2W4 | LVG wrong
- News | Transfer | Toe Poke | Fantasy | FC TV | Podcast | MLS
Sevilla supporters were also unhappy -- although not to the same extent as in Valencia -- after their team were beaten 2-1 at home by still-flying Celta at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday. It's early days yet, but Sevilla sit rock bottom of the La Liga table with just two points and two goals so far.
With Spain having a record five teams in the Champions League this season, the "other two" are finding it tough going so far.
5. Moyes could be heading for a sticky end
Last week's wrap discussed how David Moyes' Real Sociedad team had not found the net in any of their first three games. That run was broken at home to Espanyol on Saturday, but the previously solid La Real defence conceded three times -- including a painful injury-time winner scored by the visitors' Hernan Perez after their 10 men had levelled the score at 2-2 with time almost up.
A decision to send off Txuri-urdin keeper Gero Rulli for a professional foul with the score at 1-0 to his side was the game's key moment. Moyes did not dispute that decision, but surprisingly singled out replacement Oier Olazabal over Espanyol's 93rd-minute winner.
"It wasn't a good night, we worked so hard to get back with 10 men," a grim-faced Moyes said afterward. "[Oier] should have saved the third goal tonight. If you look at it again, [Perez] runs from the edge of the box round the back. You need the goalkeeper to make the save, and I think he should save it."
Oier might have done better, it's true, but blaming an on-loan player making his debut did not sound too good from the ex-Everton and Manchester United manager. It's film festival time in San Sebastian this week, and it's been a horror show start to the season for Moyes.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan