Ok, so this is a bit of a mammoth update to this but I’ve not had a great deal of free time in the last few weeks, between the end of the Autumn/Winter term at school and a busy Christmas break at home. I have managed to get to a good few football matches though, so here’s the lowdown.
Game 19: Sevilla 0-0 Levante (Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan, Seville – 15.12.2017)
One of those nights when I was glad I paid a little bit extra for tickets in the covered part of the stadium. After a typically dry day in the city, the heavens opened just after kick off and the rain continued pretty consistently throughout the game. To be honest, there’s not a great deal to say about this game, both sides had chances, both goalkeepers made good saves, but from about half an hour in I had the unshakable feeling that the game would end 0-0.
Probably the most notable thing from this game happened off the pitch, as Eduardo Berizzo returned to the Sevilla bench for the first time since having his prostate cancer surgery. Although he received a warm welcome at the start, by the end the fans were waving their white hankies and a week later, he was fired. Pretty brutal.
Game 20: Recreativo 1-2 FC Jumilla (Estadio Nuevo Colombino, Huelva – 17.12.2017)
Before kick-off there was a minute’s silence. This was the game closest to 20th December an extremely poignant date in the history of Spain’s oldest club. On that day in 2006, they defeated Real Madrid 3-0 at the Bernabeu, one of the greatest results in their history, but it was tinged with sadness as a number of supporters died in a traffic accident on their way to the stadium.
Once the game got underway, Recre looked set to continue their good recent form. Rafa de Vicente put them in front and it looked like it would be a matter of how many goals they’d win by against extremely limited opposition, whose only gameplan seemed to be committing as many fouls as possible and lumping the ball into touch like a rugby team.
But against the run of play, they equalised. And then added time-wasting and feigning injury to their repertoire. During one break in play, their goalkeeper sprinted to the middle of the pitch to complain to the referee and then promptly lay down requiring treatment.
Six minutes stoppage time were added, Recre continued to push forward in search of the winner they deserved but as they seconds ticked away Jumilla pumped another hopeful ball forward, their pacy left winger managed to beat his marker to the ball and hit a cross into the middle, right in the corridor of uncertainty between the defender and goalkeeper, leaving their forward with a tap-in, the final touch of the game. Such an injustice and not a very happy way for el decano to round off 2017.
Game 21: Coleraine 1-1 Ballymena United (The Showgrounds, Coleraine – 26.12.2017)
So back home for Christmas and back to The Showgrounds in time for the Boxing Day derby, traditionally one of the biggest dates in the Northern Irish football calendar. Coleraine, still top of the table after an excellent first half of the season, took on their local rivals Ballymena United in front of a packed Showgrounds. Kick-off had to be delayed by five minutes to allow queuing fans to get into the ground.
Alas, the game itself wasn’t of very high quality. Heavy rain before kick off and during the first half saw the pitch being churned up pretty badly, making good football increasingly difficult and Coleraine struggled to play their usual game against the conditions and their physical opponents. A cool finish from their NI Under-21 international forward Jamie McGonigle did give the Bannsiders a first-half lead, but they were pegged back in the second half when the unlucky Aaron Traynor turned Kyle Owens’ header into his own net. Both sides had their chances to win it, so a draw was probably a fair result.
Still, there was a nice sunset.
Unfortunately, the game scheduled for New Year’s Day fell victim to the continued poor weather, so that’s probably the last I’ll see of Coleraine this season.
Game 22: Recreativo 2-3 Cartagena (Estadio Nuevo Colombino, Huelva – 7.1.2018)
2018 started with a bang, five goals, two red cards and plenty of end-to-end action. But it was a familiar hard-luck story for Recre who suffered a third consecutive defeat, this time against the league leaders.
Again Recre actually took the lead, this time through an own goal but the lead only lasted around four minutes as an excellent free kick restored parity. Then Cartagena caught the Recre defence napping (and appealing for a non-existent offside) to take the lead. Nuñez was booked for his protests, which would become significant four minutes into the second half when a rash tackle from the Recre skipper saw him receive another booking and an early bath.
With that, Recre’s momentum more or less evaporated and frustration began to creep in, especially as they felt the referee was overlooking excessively physical challenges from the Cartagena players. Santi Luque’s frustration boiled over and a reckless challenge earned him a second booking, meaning Recre would finish the game with nine men.
Cartagena looked to have wrapped the game up with a third goal in injury time, but Recre pulled one back to set up a grandstand finish, but despite the always welcome sight of a goalkeeper coming up for a last-minute corner, it wasn’t to be.