Sunday, November 15, 2009

Up ya bum Orihuela

This weekend Santa Pola failed miserably in their quest to emulate Hercules B and rack up seven consecutive defeats, they didn't even get half way there which was a huge relief. Following three disappointing losses, the old Santa Pola returned and trimmed up Orihuela B very nicely thank you, in large part due to the return of a couple of first choices absent recently through injury.

On a crap pitch at a shit-hole of a ground, (I wrote about it here a week or so ago, remember the one? you access it via a teeth jarring road of bones), the
"rojiblancos" eased to a 1-2 win against an ordinary looking Orihuela B side that spent most of the game bitching at the referee. They should have kept their gobs shut and do what they're paid to do, kick a football to one another.

Muscular American striker Mario Fernandez opened the scoring inside ten minutes and 'Pola began the game looking good and controlled things until an inexplicable deliberate handball by centre back Miguel gifted the home side a penalty for the equalizer. He might have got away with it against any other team, Orihuela "persuaded" the ref to have a bit of a chat with his lino and the upshot was a yellow card and a spot kick, slapped in by striker Aleo. That was how the first half ended, a careless goal conceded but no real alarms as Santa Pola, for the most part, stroked the ball around with confidence.

The winning goal came courtesy of the oldest bloke on the pitch,
Chema, defying the ageing process prodded the ball in from close range shortly after the second half began. Thereafter, a youngish looking Orihuela B side went into a even bigger moody and had two sent off. Saul had his afternoon's work shortened by about thirty minutes following his second yellow card and full back Damian saved the man in the middle a bit of time with a straight red. Until he hit the floor and regained his senses, Chema knew nothing about the cowardly mugging from behind perpetuated by the home full-back.

Try as they might to draw blood deliberately, the only time Orihuela B managed it was by complete accident, the unlucky Santa Pola defender Vicente stopped a boot in the mouth and was withdrawn, last seen counting his teeth with about three kilos of Kleenex surrounding his gums.

Down to nine immature men, the home side were clearly getting a bit narked, expelled forward Saul, still very obviously seething, chose to pick a verbal fight with the smallest member of the travelling support, local legend and "Chocolatero" (more later), Pablo. Visualise Charlie Magri in against Evander Holyfield and you're half way there. In the end, Pablo, still giving it loads, was dragged off by a concerned friend who feared for the safety of the local bloke.

Eventually, referee Vegas Iglesias blew for time and following the reluctant but necessary handshakes all round, Santa Pola grabbed three welcome points after a fractious second half. At the end of the week-end fixtures 'Pola sat fifth in the Preferente classification with twenty points from their first eleven games. Not bad at all following a piss poor November.

PHOTOS; Above - spooky, Orihuela players whingeing at the ref
                 Below - Paloma was outstanding

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Overnight bags and old bags

Last Saturday, Santa Pola made the half hour journey to Mutxamel, (Much-a-miel), seeking to avoid a third successive defeat, I don't think they tried quite hard enough! The afternoon wasn't that great an experience all round, in spite of proferring FFCV press pass, Santa Pola season ticket and Directors identity, the muppet on the gate insisted on a payment of ten euros, in the end I gave up arguing and just walked in.

The stadium itself was barely worth two euros entrance let alone ten. A decent sized artificial pitch, surrounded by a grubby athletics track and floodlights set way too far back to offer any worthwhile illumination were accompanied by a gale force wind and bare concrete seating, miserable!

The Mutxamel manager, Juan Iborra, who I chatted with a couple of weeks ago on my unofficial scouting mission offered a handshake in return for my good wishes for the game and took a seat next to his subs. He barely had time to warm his arse though as he was red carded twenty seconds after the start for foul language.

Freezing cold and with 'Pola a goal behind at the break I wandered off to the cantina to try and cheer myself up with coffee and a sarnie, I should have taken my passport and an overnight bag, it was about a kilometre away and took and age to get served, so long in fact I missed the start of the second half. With twenty minutes left Marcos equalized from the penalty spot as Santa Pola came more and more into the game, pushing hard for a winner they left gaps at the back and conceded twice in the last ten minutes to throw it away,
Final score 3-1

Above - Marcos scored but to little avail

Special thanks must go to the sixteen stone Spanish lady with a face like a bag of spanners sat nearby for making a shitty afternoon even worse. By the end of the game the constant moaning of her and her husband were really starting to bother me. I was tempted to offer a friendly suggestion, something like, "for fucks sake shut up you fat old heiffer, your team won"  but thought better of it.

The football was too depressing to describe in detail so here's a web link describing the action, or what little of it there was.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Alto riesgo - the Murcia derby

Having failed to persuade the oh so patient girlfriend a Sunday trip to IKEA would be a good idea, I still went anyway, not the Swedish superstore though but to one of the best stadiums in Spain, the adjacent Nueva Condomina, home of Real Murcia C.F. In one of their biggest games in years, struggling Murcia took on near neighbours and sworn enemies, high flying Cartagena.

Ninety minutes before kick-off the place was jumping, courtesy of the more than seven thousand visiting fans who made the short journey from home in one of Spain's most important naval cities. Ten games into 2009/10 Cartagena, recently promoted from Segunda B football, still await their first defeat and are this seasons surprise package. The way they disposed of Murcia, languishing near the foot of the table, was clinical, two goals inside the first five minutes and the home side were on the back foot almost immediately.
A third Cartagena goal on the half hour killed the game as a contest and thereafter Murcia were playing for pride.

It's probably because I've been weaned on a diet of semi-professional football played out in front of crowds of about five hundred or so, but there's something quite exciting about a magnificent stadium rammed to the rafters with a huge visiting contingent separated from the locals by a column of hard looking cops that stretches all the way to the top of the stand. The local law enforcement needn't have worried, after a rampant first half the away lot were in the mood to party, which they did, and how!

In his first game in charge of Real Murcia, Jose Gonzalez must have read the riot act during the break, his charges came out for the second half and performed like men possessed, Cartagena never got a look in and for the first time in the game the home fans sensed something special might be about to happen. They deservedly pulled a goal back and set about battering the Cartagena back four for whom Arsenal and Villarreal reject Pascal Cygan was immense. Urged on by their own fans who took a while to find their voices, Murcia tried everything but couldn't find a way past the outstanding Cartagena goalkeeper Ruben, who defied the marauding red hordes singlehandedly.

A debateable Cartagena penalty on eighty two minutes maintained the three goal cushion and saw Murcia down to ten men as former Hercules defender Sergio Fernandez saw red and took an age to depart. Despondent locals streamed away five minutes before Cantabrian referee Sr.Teixeira blew for time. Final score Murcia 1 - 4 Cartagena. 

Top - Cartagena's twelfth player
Middle - An assured performance by Pascal Cygan  
Bottom - Sergio Fernandez is asked to leave

Monday, November 2, 2009

Not the best weekend

Just when I was giving some serious thought to changing my name to Harry, the North London derby occurred and immediately put the kybosh on a bit of flawed idea. I managed to watch the first forty three minutes before turning off the TV in a bit of a huff. One quick Google Earth later and I jumped in the car to scope out Santa Pola's next away opponents.

Orihuela is about twenty minutes away from Elche and their B team were taking on Mutxamel in a Preferente fixture I didn't really need to see but just fancied because Spurs were so shite. Orihuela have one of the leagues most attractive stadiums, Los Arcos, right in the centre of town. Unfortunately, it was out of bounds today which meant a slight detour around the city to the middle of nowhere, a small pueblo, (village), called Hurchillo, where, the rather grandly titled Ciudad Deportiva was anything but. The place was accessed only by seven odd kilometres of teeth jarring cobble stoned road, in England you'd be picking up stones and dog shit from the playing surface before attempting to stage the game. Surrounded on all four sides by a head high wire fence just three feet from the touch line, a reasonable crowd turned up to watch, all of whom sat on their car bonnets to view proceedings. With no cantina or loo's, (I took a wazz in the stinging nettles behind the decrepit changing rooms), I knew straightaway I'd not be hurrying back. After a brief chat with the Mutxamel coach to suss out his team, we were joined unexpectedly by one Domingo Grau, the Santa Pola manager who had the same idea as me.  A last minute goal by Orihuela B's ginger haired full back Rojo shared the points in a 2-2 draw, shortly after I put my gum shield back in ready for the journey back.

This weekend, what should have been the footballing highlight became the second lowlight, Santa Pola lost at home. It was a weekend of curious results; leaders Horadada, seven wins from nine starts, lost at home to bottom club Hercules B who took eight games to earn their first points, so clearly 'Pola were in good company. It didn't start too badly, the Santa Pola back four, static and with arms raised appealing for offside, were ignored by both lino and ref as Polop opened the scoring five minutes in. Adriano, him again, equalized with a simple header from a corner to send the teams in level at the break. Five minutes after the restart, Polop took the lead and never relinquished it, Giorgio hammered in a free kick from outside the box to grab all three points for the visitors. Santa Pola, with a good forty minutes to make amends never even got close.
Full time 1-2

After a quick dash home to knock up some words and email a couple of photo's it was back to Santa Pola to pick up my mate Mark for the third of three games, the Tercera group 6 clash between Torrevieja and Elche Ilicitano at the Vicente Garcia in Torre'. At the start of my Spanish odyssey I lived in Torrevieja for two months and hated it without ever being tempted to visit the local team. FC Torrevieja deserve all the plaudits that come their way, the club were almost bankrupt and out of existence just a couple of years ago, thanks to financial mis-management by the previous board. A fantastic effort by fans, a new group of Directors, local businesses and well wishers got the enterprise back on it's feet and they're now thriving. Santa Pola C.F. could certainly learn something from the commercial acitivities run by Torrevieja.

As always in football, events off the pitch are not always matched by those on it, in front of a couple of thousand people, a crowd two locals I got chatting to assured me was disappointing for them, Torre' and Elche B slugged it out in an at times quite feisty game that ended two apiece.

Elsewhere, and unlike Harry Redknapp, the two Segunda A teams I follow and watch closely did really well. Elche travelled to Madrid to take on Rayo Vallecano, the only second division team with a female President, Maria Teresa Rivero, and came away with an excellent 0-1 win. At the same time as Santa Pola meekly surrendered to Polop, Hercules took on Real Sociedad at home and spanked them 5-1. A bit of a mixed bag then really with the two most important games a bit crap.

Top - Santa Pola coach Domingo Grau
Middle - Captain Monsa, out of luck for 'Pola
Bottom - Alvaro for Elche B fends of Gustavo (3)