Sunday, June 20, 2010

Valencia versus Murcia

There is never an opportune moment to aggravate season ticket holders, who, through thick and thin turn up to watch throughout the year and frequently find themselves freezing cold, sunburnt, neglected or simply pissed off by a shite performance. Personally, I'd tolerate all of those, and have done at various times during the season because every single one of the above grievances goes with the territory. However, ask me to chip in twice for any combination of those dubious privelages and I'd probably say "Piss off, have I got mug tattoo'd on my forehead?"

Clearly, the probability of that verbose reply was discounted by officials of Elche CF, who still went ahead with a ridiculous plan to charge existing season ticket holders for entrance to the local derby, and potential money spinner, against Real Murcia. The upshot was, areas of the ground normally populated by the more vociferous element ( Peñas) of the home support were empty and the healthy travelling contingent made the most noise in a woefully poorly attended match that had so much riding on it for both Elche and Murcia. Considerably more was occurring outside the ground with protests galore occupying the local law enforcement as resentful season ticket holders (abonados) made their grievances known.

Amidst all the politics, a football match took place and what a good one it was for the visitors who looked sharper upfront and in midfield and really took the game to their hosts. A dismal 4900 bothered to turn up, a gate swelled by at least a thousand Murcianos who left delighted as their heroes avenged a home defeat back in January against today's opponents. In fairness, at times Murcia played like a team struggling for their lives in the 2a basement, for their part Elche, were considerably worse and made their red shirted guests look good. Twice Real Murcia went ahead and only once could Elche respond as they gifted their near neighbours three very welcome points.

Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero singled handedly defied Murcia for forty minutes, at which point he was left badly exposed by his back four, as they appealed in vain for offside, Aquino was allowed acres of space and just as much time to pick a spot to open the scoring. The heart rate of Willy boy again went through the roof two minutes later when the same Murcia forward burst through under no sort of challenge to fire a shot just wide. The bollocking that followed from the shaven headed goal-keeper left his defenders in no doubt as to his opinion on their concentration levels thus far. Half time 0-1

I'd hazard a guess that Willy Caballero did the interval team talk in the dressing room because, having failed to come up with a single chance worthy of the name throughout a one-sided first half, Elche, with ears  ringing, got themselves on the scoresheet for the only time in the match two and a bit minutes after the re-start.  Midfielder Perera charged forward and kept on going, riding tackle after tackle to bludgeon his way into the Murcia box to even things up. Perhaps now the difference in league positions would become evident, not a chance!

As Elche scratched their arses in, it must be said, pretty clueless fashion, Murcia regrouped and carried on as before, only that man Caballero kept the red shirts at bay as over and over again the four men supposedly playing in front of him went AWOL. For the final time in the game on seventy eight minutes, at least two of the Elche players erroneously designated defenders, politely said "after you" and Chando rounded the Goucho goalkeeper to make it 1-2. The Murcia coach, subs and technical team went fucking spastic, clearly believing they'd just witnessed a momentous moment in their fight for Segunda A survival. Full time 1-2

At about this time last season, the Elche President Jose Sepeulcre and his Rayo Vallecano opposite number, Maria Teresa Rivero, engaged in a war of words in the press following Elche's 1-2 away win which effectively ended the Rayo promotion challenge for 2008/09. Señora Rivero did not mince her words when openly suggesting that Elche CF had accepted a "prima" (cash incentive) from a Rayo promotion rival in return for defeating the Madrid outfit.

Today, the Elche performance had the same sort of look about it, nothing to play for so why not help out a struggling neighbour in return for some financial assistance!!!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Segunda A goes down to the wire

As Preferente football was neatly folded up and carefully put away in the drawer marked September, there was still one burning issue from the 2009/10 football season to settle, and for me, it's a matter of enormous interest. The culmination of the Segunda A season is coming to a thrilling close, and, with just three games remaining, both local clubs to feature heavily in my blog are well placed and contending for promotion to La Primera, Spanish football's elite division.

The story from Elche CF is remarkable, a poor start and wallowing in the bottom three saw their manager, Claudio Barragan sacked and replaced by Pepe Bordalas in October. Thereafter, their fortunes improved and a steady climb up the table began, and, in early June they're handily placed just four points below, believe it or not,  Hercules in the third and final promotion place. No such drama for Hercules though, all season long they've been up at the front, and, were it not for a poor trot during March and April, they would have been sitting pretty now. As it turns out though, those spring time jitters may still end up costing the club dear.

This weekend, Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th sees two clubs from just south of Alicante province attempt to put a spanner in the works of both Herc' and Elch as the fixture computer just happened to burp out a couple of intriguing matches at this critical juncture of the season. In the same way Hercules and Elche football clubs hate each others guts, the same can be said of both Real Murcia and Cartagena, the only time fans of these two see eye to eye is squaring up to each other after the Murcia derby.  This weekend then, Murcia travel to Elche on Saturday evening and the following day Hercules head in the opposite direction for a date with a hostile reception at the intimidating Cartagonova stadium.

In addition to lashings of local pride, each of the two games has quite a bit riding on it, promotion outsiders Elche haven't given up the ghost of going up, and, in their burly centre forward Jorge Molina, have the league's leading scorer and contender for the "pichichi" trophy at season's end. For their part, Real Murcia have a little on their plate too, namely Segunda A survival, with games rapidly running out, Los Pimentoneros, are third bottom and just a handful of points from safety. No doubt at all, their relegation dogfight is just about to involve Alicante neightbours Elche, themselves keen to snatch three points.

As six pointeers go, Cartagena versus Hercules late on Sunday evening is a real seven pointer, equal on sixty four points, a draw, the likely result even though Cartagena have home advantage, will help neither team. The way things are shaping up, Real Sociedad, (who must still visit Elche) and Levante are creeping away from the pack, therefore five other teams are chasing third place and untold La Liga riches. One thing is certain, in my patch all police leave for this weekend was cancelled weeks ago.

Arise Sir Adriano

For the first and only time, yours truly recently left a top class game of football at half-time. Nope, it was nowt to do with the football being shite either, I didn't have a lot of choice. Actually that's a bit of a fib, I had the option of staying until the end of Elche versus Girona and missing the start of Santa Pola's final game of the season, or, knocking off at half time from Elche's Martinez Valero stadium to catch all of 'Pola and Jove Español. With Elche 0-0 at half time, I elected for option B which was the wrong guess as it turned out because my green and white shirted home town club spanked in four unanswered second half goals against Girona, all of which I missed. Bugger my luck!

Nine months and three different home grounds after it all began, Santa Pola Club de Futbol put their 2009/10 season to bed with an emphatic home win on a late May Saturday evening. With the squad electing for a rare Sunday morning lie-in, preceded no doubt by a post game beer or two, Jove Español arrived for an 1800 kick off at the Manolo Macia, where, entrance was free and more locals than usual took advantage of the offer.

With nothing at stake for either side, Jove were destined to end up mid-table and Santa Pola a creditable fifth or sixth, just out of reach of the play-offs, my initial expectation of this meaningless rubber was a dire game of football both sides couldn't wait to get out of the way. Not so, Santa Pola, and 22 year old striker Adriano in particular, were terrific. The visitors played their part too, but not before finally coming to life mid-way through the second half.

An expertly taken first half poachers hat-trick by that man ensured Santa Pola ended the season as they'd started it, with a welcome and fairly routine three points. With a considerably more familiar look to the side, the performance also had a bit more of what regular watchers have come to expect, decent passing and movement, some nice one touch stuff and plenty of chances. Their opponents from the previous week are a good side, all the more reason then to field the kind of starting eleven at Horadada, Jove Español had to face this evening. (Unless you get me roaring drunk I still refuse to expand on my conspiracy theory),  anyway enough of that.

Three nil to the good at half-time, the interval breakfast baguette and coffee tasted much better than usual as I wandered back to my spot, pitchside on the half-way line, ready for a bit  more. When you're playing well and ahead by a hatful at the break, I always wonder how many they're going to end up with, wishful thinking though, (how often does that happen), because only a single additional goal was added to bother the scorers, and that was by the visitors just a few minutes after the re-start. To be honest, Santa Pola, despite conceding quickly, were in cruise control from early on and appeared to be looking forward to those end of season sherberts with about twenty minutes to go.

Full time 3-1 and that was that, after thirty four games, fifteen wins, fifty six points, fifty goals and an excellent sixth place in the table, the season was over. Enjoy the ales lads, you deserve them.
Arise Sir Adriano? well he definitely deserves one but but the club can't afford it!!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In the words of Mannfred Mann's Earth Band............

.....Kevvy's on the road again!! And this time for the final away match in Santa Pola's, on the whole, pretty good season. Not an easy one to finish up with though, a sixty eight odd kilometre coach trip south to just beyond Torrevieja to take on Horadada, who really aren't a bad side at all. As it turned out it wasn't to be a particularly good game or performance by the boys from the seaside, both of which I almost missed because of an unseemly (un)diplomatic incident.

Home in Elche to Pilar de la Horadada is a straightforward journey down the motorway until just south of Torrevieja where you join the N332 for about a twenty odd kilometre run south to Pilar. The quaint Ikomar stadium, home to the best grass pitch in Preferente football, is on the far side of town adjacent to a pretty scruffy and small industrial estate and easily accessed by using the main drag through the pueblo and just keeping going. Easy that is when there aren't roadworks that compel you to use a rabbit warren of back streets. In this order, three things then happened, I got completely lost, had a major row with a burly Spanish motorist and eventually arrived at the ground irritable and fed up.

I can kind of see the reason the big old Spanish bloke was a tad pissed off, I, without meaning to, (you never do), completely missed a stop sign and almost t-boned him at a junction I wasn't familiar with. Normally in that scenario, the combination of holding your hands up and employing a pathetic looking face tend to work and the other party drives of muttering a bit. Not today though, our heated road exchange ended with me asking the nobber a question and then answering it for him, something like...."Hablas Inglés? entonces Fuck off"

I could have guessed it was going to be one of those afternoons and so it proved on the pitch. A strange looking Santa Pola line-up, missing a host of regulars, (I won't bother advancing my personal conspiracy theory), were never really at the races and on a hot, hot Sunday evening slipped to their worst defeat of the season after one of their poorest performances of the campaign. Somewhat oddly, Santa Pola led by a goal at half time, that, and the combination of a few choice words from coach Domingo Grau during the break, ought to have been sufficient to rouse the guys from their lethargy. It never happened. Santa Pola sleep- walked their collective way through another dismal forty five minutes of football, conceding four unanswered and extremely good goals in the process. For the second time in 2009/10 'Pola lost to a decent Horadada side, today going down 4-1 whilst never really looking like taking anything from the encounter.

I've been to the Ikomar at various times this season and last and you always know what you are going to get, a warm welcome from a very friendly football club who deserve their onfield success. One thing that's always puzzled me is the attitude of one or two of the local Brits who gather to watch. Today, I thought The Reds were excellent and could have won by far more than three goals, despite playing as well as they did, all I heard from one or two English voices close to me for virtually the whole game was complaints. Curious.
Oh, and by the way, I was wearing different clothes agains!!