Friday, March 12, 2010

Sweet revenge and some ill behaviour

Claudio Barragan was sacked on October the 4th 2009, earlier that day his employers, Elche Club de Futbol S.A.D., had witnessed a gutless capitulation to near neighbours and sworn enemies Hercules of Alicante. The three nil defeat following an appalling start to the season which left the Franjiverdes deep in the mire at the Segunda A table, was too much for club President Jose Sepulcre and Barragan was out. That was then and Sunday March 7th 2010 is now.

Since then Elche have hauled themeselves out of the relegation mire and sit handily placed in the top  half of the table. Hercules, despite one or two indifferent results, are perched right at the top of the pile with a small points cushion between them and fourth, the spot at which the entire season counts for nothing. Game on. Getting on for nineteen thousand people turned up with over eight thousand from Alicante contributing to the biggest crowd the Martinez Valero has seen in ages. Something had to give and unfortunately for the visiting hoardes, the Hercules back four blinked first after only sixteen minutes. Leading score Molina, back earlier than expected from a foot injury, found Saul who's pin point cross found Usero at the back stick who did the business in style.

1-0 and the expected reaction from Herc' never came, instead it was Elche who continued to set the first half pace as the Alicantino's found their discipline wanting, forcing Madrid referee Lesma Lopez to resort to the card. A poor first half showing from the visitors simply emphasised the confidence with which Elche strutted around the pitch creating by far the better chances. Montenegrin striker, the usually deadly, Andrija Delibasic had a poor first forty five for Hercules, forcing local hero Willy Caballero into a single serious save all half. At the other end, what should have been a ring rusty return for Molina was anything but as the second divisions leading scorer added to his tally by smacking home a thirty seventh minute cross from Juli for Elche's second and the game's final goal.

An altogether better Hercules effort in the second period failed to produce anything as the closest they came to making Elche sweat was a Delibasic header, correctly dis-allowed with the frontman yards offside. Between towering performances from the green and white shirted back four and Argentine 'keeper Caballero, the Elche motto for the afternoon appeared to be "they shall not pass" and Herc' duly didn't. The half-time score was also the result, Elche 2-0 Hercules. With their win Elche climb to eighth, a mere seven points behind third placed surprise package Cartagena. Win, lose or draw Hercules weren't ever going to relinquish top spot, all that happened was the teams directly beaneath them closed things up a little. For the Blanquiazules La Liga football is still a distinct possibility, what probably hurt more than the loss of three points was the surrender of local gloating rights.

For this reason, and with the liklihood of no Elche/Alicante derby for at least a season, a handful of the more fed up away contingent decided to indulge in a little hand to hand combat outside the ground with some of their more vociferous rivals. The fisticuffs were soon quelled by the swift intervention of the local law enforcement, who, with just a handful of arrests were, like the local football team, more than happy with how the afternoon's events finished up.

PHOTOS - Mark Welton

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