Monday, August 23, 2010

Can Hercules do it?

As Elche wound down their campaign with a defeat on the road and a last day victory, rivals Hercules ended their own home campaign with a nervous looking victory in front of a massive crowd numbering twenty seven thousand. Their opponents were Madrid based Rayo Vallecano, who with nothing to play for, could easily have put a gigantic spanner in Hercules' works.

Hercules fans celebrate at a packed Rico Perez
A goal-less first half belied the Hercules dominance, try as they might, the Rayo back four held firm and at times rode their luck, especially after fifteen minutes when a decent penalty shout for a foul on Tiago Gomes was turned down by Canaries referee Hern├índez Hern├índez. Inside the first three second half minutes, both sides found themselves on the scoresheet, and it was the visitors who silenced the expectant home support when rthe dangerous Coke fired in a shot from just insidde the box. Hercules immediately responded when Portillo headed home to even things up. In the end the visitors gave it a darned good go and stayed level at one apiece until almost the final whistle. Almost was close but but not quite enough for Rayo because Portillo notched his and Herc's second with less than two minutes remaining.

A brave effort or not by Rayo Vallecano, the delirious local support cared not, a crucial 2-1 victory ensured promotion was still within reach, and, crucially was in their own hands, depending solely on a Hercules win in their final match away to lowly Real Union. Elsewhere on the second last match day of the season, Real Sociedad secured the Segunda A title with a routine two nil home win over Celta Vigo and the only two teams still in with a shout of overtaking Hercules enjoyed mixed fortunes. Levante cruised past already relegated Castellon and Real Betis could only manage a 1-1 draw away at mid table Salamanca, two wasted points which were to prove vital to both Levante and Hercules.

Three weeks into June and a week after the start of The World Cup the season eventually came to a thrilling conclusion and the permutation was simple, two promotion places remained and three clubs were in contention Hercules started game day 42 in second place closely followed by Levante and then Real Betis.
I'm not certain how the fixture computer manages to do it every time, but way back in August 2009 guess which two teams were drawn to play each other in the final games of the season? In the end, Real Betis hammered Levante 4-0 at home and their whole season hinged on the relegated Real Union and Hercules result from the northern city of Irun.

A 0-2 win for Hercules at the smallest ground in the league, watched by four hundred travelling supporters ensured the Alicantinos headed home happy and Real Betis, despite finishing on the same number of points as both Levante and Hercules, finished fourth. Tough on the men from Seville but here's some interesting statistics, the head to head records of the three protagonists

Betis 1 - 1 Hercules      Levante 2 - 1 Hercules      Betis 4 - 0 Levante   
Hercules 3 - 2 Betis     Hercules  2- 1 Levante      Levante 1 - 0 Betis

                                                                                            Goals        Goals
                                   Points Played  Won   Drawn   Lost    For           Against
1 REAL SOCIEDAD  74     42         20      14         8         53             37

2 HERCULES             71     42         19      14        9         61             34

3 LEVANTE               71     42         19      14        9         63             45

The final table looked like this, and, after a nine year gap to their previous adventure in Spanish football's top division, Hercules were back. Or were they?   TO BE CONTINUED

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