2018/19 in Pictures – Games 12-15

It’s something of a bumper update for this as I’ve been very busy going to matches since I moved to Madrid, including two in one day last Saturday, the Rayo double, which I will be covering in more detail in a post next week. Until then, here’s a summary of what I’ve seen so far in the big city (and surrounding area)

Game 12: Fuenlabrada 1-0 Deportivo La Coruña Fabril (Estadio Fernando Torres, Fuenlabrada – 9.9.2018)

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With no La Liga on my first weekend in Madrid due to it being international week, I had to go down the leagues for my first taste of fútbol español for the 2018/19 season. Luckily in Madrid there were lots of options, so I plumped for revisiting a favourite place from last season, Fuenlabrada.

It was a much easier journey this time, the torturous trip from the north of the city to the MetroSur being replaced with a short Cercanias journey from Atocha to Fuenlabrada Central and then a couple of stops to Hospital de Fuenlabrada on the Metro and the short walk to the ground itself.

It was a much warmer day than my last visit, so I did feel a bit sorry for whoever inhabits the terrifying giant chicken mascot costume on days like this, but their enthusiasm was undimmed, walking around the ground, hi-fiving kids and taking selfies with anyone who wanted one. Perhaps due to it being near the start of the season there was no merchandise for sale, which means I still don’t have a Fuenla scarf for my collection.

The game itself was a lot more entertaining than the one I saw in March, with both sides having their fair share of chances, no mean feat considering how warm it was. Fabril (Depor’s B team) were wearing their quite outstanding third kit, based on the Galician flag and incorporating the words of the regional anthem, which is easily one of my favourite kits from anywhere in the footballing world this season, so seeing that in the flesh was an early-season highlight. Fuenla scored to win late on, saving me from my first 0-0 of the season in the process.

Game 13: Atlético Madrid 1-1 Eibar (Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid – 15.9.2018)

(I’ve already covered this game in a separate post entitled A Stadium Called Wanda, which focuses more on the ins-and-outs of visiting the ground. So here I’ll mostly stick to the on-pitch action.)

My first proper visit to Atlético’s new stadium was an interesting one, one which almost ended in an embarrassing defeat, but saw their famed nunca dejes de creer spirit shine through late on. In truth, Atlético should have been out of sight by half time, only a masterclass between the sticks from Dmitrovic for the visitors kept them at bay and the longer the game went on at 0-0, the edgier the home fans became.

Already lagging behind in the league after only picking up four points from the opening three games, dropping any more at this stage was seen as disastrous. Nothing Atlético did seemed to come off, especially for Diego Costa, enduring a goalscoring drought in La Liga which stretches all the way back to February.

Eibar hit the woodwork on the break a couple of times, but otherwise showed little attacking ambition, so it was a massive surprise when substitute Sergi Enrich turned the ball past Jan Oblak to put them ahead with only four minutes of regular time remaining. Deep into injury time, Atlético found their response from an unlikely source. Borja Garcés, whose entry as a substitute had been whistled and jeered by a large percentage of the crowd (probably more due to their displeasure at Rodri being replaced than anything else) , collected the ball from Griezmann and drilled the ball home powerfully to salvage a point.

Game 14: Rayo Vallecano 1-5 Alavés (Estadio de Vallecas, Madrid – 22.9.2018)

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Another week and another early kick off and this one was definitely worth getting up for. Rayo games are always wonderful, atmospheric occasions and I was excited to finally witness one as a resident of Madrid. The game only got the go ahead from the authorities in the week leading up to it after emergency repairs had been carried out following issues which came to light in the opening game of the season against Sevilla.

Both teams were quick out of the blocks with Alavés striking first, before Raul de Tomás, who amazingly just has his initials R.D.T. on the back of his shirt, equalised for Rayo. Cue the usual pogoing to The Final Countdown.

Alas, things soon took a turn for the worse for Rayo. Ibai Gomez put the visitors ahead again with a wonderful curling shot, but as he celebrated in front of the stand I was in (which held most of the traveling fans in the upper deck), the referee was checking VAR. Surely he couldn’t be thinking of ruling the goal out?

Well, no. In fact, the VAR review made things even worse for Rayo as he was in fact checking on an infringement by defender Abdoulaye Ba. He was shown a red card and Rayo’s task got all the more difficult.

To their credit, they initially made a good go of it, but in the midday heat, a high pressing game with ten men was only going to lead to one thing and when the third goal went in ten minutes after the restart, they were spent. Alavés added two more goals, one in the fifth minute of stoppage time to send the fans above me back to Vitoria very happy indeed.

Game 15: Rayo Majadahonda 1-4 Extremadura (Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid – 22.9.2018)

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A quick dash across the city turned out to not be quick enough as I arrived at the Wanda to be confronted by a long queue of people waiting for tickets. With only three taquillas open, it’s obvious that Rayo Majadahonda hadn’t expected many people to show up.

This meant that I missed the first half hour of the game (and two goals) standing around outside the ground. When I finally did get in, I found that pretty much everywhere I looked there were Extremadura fans, they never brought this many people to Huelva when they played Recre last season!

Like their namesakes earlier on in the day, Rayo Majadahonda went down to ten men, this time for a slightly needless challenge from a defender who was already on a yellow card. Extremadura scored their third goal soon after and although Rayo got one back from the penalty spot, Enric Gallego added a fourth in stoppage time to complete his hat-trick and put the cap on a historic result – Extremadura’s first ever win in the Segunda Division.

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