2018/19 in Pictures: Games 26-29

Four games in the space of one epic bank holiday weekend. But not the Libertadores Final because my tickets to these four games cost less than one for for that. Plus the website to buy them kept crashing on me. I’m not bitter, I promise.

I did see four very different but enjoyable games in four different grounds all over the city, which rounded off my Spanish football watching for 2018.

Game 26: SAD Villaverde- San Andrés 0-1 Alcorcón B (Estadio Boetticher, Madrid – 6.12.2018)

A public holiday in Spain means a number of things. Most places shut down, public transport becomes unpredictable but best of all, lower league football usually takes advantage of the holiday to fit in an extra round of games!

In this case, as the holiday was Thursday, this was just a game moved forward from the traditional weekend slot, something I was glad of as Villaverde’s regular 11:30am Sunday kick-offs make it a bit awkward for me to go.

The Estadio Boetticher is just a short walk from the Villaverde Bajo-Cruce Metro stop and entry was just €10 (the ticket confusingly bearing the club’s former name of Villaverde-Boetticher – they changed to their current name last year)

The ground is a charming throwback, terracing, a small stand, park benches to sit on, it honestly wouldn’t look out of place back home in the Irish League. After purchasing a scarf and the necessary caffeine boost from the kiosco on the terracing, it was time for the match to begin.

Alcorcón B were the opposition (feels like I’m talking about Alcorcón on the blog every week at the moment) and although they shared a similar style of play with their A team, it was the hosts who had the majority of the chances as they looked to continue a run of four straight wins and an unbeaten run which stretched back to late September.

Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t manage it. Late on in the game, the visitors scored the only goal, betting from a rebound after the Villaverde ‘keeper had made a decent save.

Despite the result, I enjoyed my morning out at Boetticher. It’s a nice, old-style stadium and there’s a good atmosphere on the terrace courtesy of the Bottis Verdes their Ultras group eqipped with drums and plenty of songs to cheer their players on. One to definitely revisit later in the season.

Game 27: Real Madrid 6-1 Melilla (6.12.2018 – Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid)

From the Tercera to the Copa del Rey and one of the most iconic stadiums in the world. Cheap tickets plus an attacking Madrid side made this a good afternoon out.

Already 4-0 up from the first leg in Melilla, there was no chance of an upset, but new Madrid boss Santiago Solari still named a reasonably strong team featuring Isco, Asensio, Navas, Carvajal, Mariano and most intriguingly €46m Brazilian teenager Vinicius Junior.

It took a while for Madrid to make the breakthrough against their Segunda B opponents, but a quickfire double from Asensio on 33 and 356 minutes put them well in control, before a special moment for young defender Javier Sánchez, scoring his first Real Madrid goal with an excellent strike which went in off the crossbar.

After half time Isco, who had been quiet in the first half, stepped up and began to dominate the game. Almost immediately he made it 4-0 with a beautiful curled effort from outside the box. Vinicius Junior was involved a lot, clearly bursting with talent, but still very raw as evidenced by his poor finishing with the chances presented to him. He did get his first goal with 15 minutes left, which he definitely deserved, even though the manner of it – a rebound which came straight back to him after a poor shot – was certainly somewhat fortuitous.

Melilla competed well and they did at least give their travelling fans something to cheer before the end, Yacine Quasmi converting an 81st minute penalty for a consolation goal before Isco completed the scoring, making it 6-1 on the night and 10-1 on aggregate.

In many ways this game sums up the problems with the current Copa del Rey format. Over two legs, it’s extremely hard to see a tiny club like Melilla overcome a giant like Real Madrid. Indeed, in the 16 ties concluded last week, only one lower division side progressed and that was Sporting Gijon, a big club in their own right.

An open draw for the Copa, with ties being one-off matches would create a better competition, create a more level playing field for smaller clubs and add more of a sense of jeopardy for the big boys. But maybe that’s what RFEF want to avoid?

Game 28: Leganés 1-1 Getafe (Estadio Municipal de Butarque, Leganés, Madrid – 7.12.2018)

Probably the game I was most looking forward to last weekend, following the fun I had on my previous visit to Butarque, it wasn’t exactly a classic match but my first taste of the South Madrid derby did live up to expectations.

Getting off the train at Zarzaquemada, the first sight I saw was two groups of Leganés Ultras meeting up before the game. There were plenty of songs and some flares too as I watched – from a safe distance of course!

Then at the stadium I had a close encounter with the Getafe Ultras as the police escorted them to the away end. Once inside the ground there was time to enjoy a bocata de lomo before kick off (had to eat early after hearing reports they’d sold out before half time at the previous home game).

The teams came out, greeted by a great tifo from the home fans and only the third South Madrid derby in the Primera got underway.

Leganés started strongly, had most of the possession and more clearcut chances, but it was Getafe who went in front. A free kick awarded just in front of where I was sitting was whipped into the box and Leandro Cabrera’s header squeezed through the legs of Pichu Cuellar. The away fans nestled in the far corner were now singing louder.

The half time entertainment included a man proposing to his girlfriend on the pitch in full view of Super Pepino (turns out some people’s dreams do come true in Leganés!)

Into the second half and Leganés continued to push for an equaliser and finally got their reward on 64 minutes as Getafe couldn’t clear a long throw and Allan Nyom rifled in the equaliser. Now Butarque was rocking and with momentum behind them, surely a second goal was inevitable?

But it didn’t come and the game fizzled out a bit despite a great save from David Soria to keep out a Nabil EL Zhar shot. It was quite a physical contest, with neither side holding back in their challenges and eventually there was a red card. Leah’s Rubén Pérez getting his marching orders for a high challenge.

So 1-1 it finished, a result that probably pleased Getafe more than Leganés but both sides fans did themselves proud in the atmosphere they created. I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Butarque.

Game 29: Atlético Madrid 3-0 Alavés (Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid – 8.12.2018)

The epic weekend reached its conclusion on Saturday afternoon. In truth I was still a little tired after my experience at the South Madrid derby, so I maybe wasn’t as enthusiastic as I could have been while heading to the Wanda.

The journey did prove a couple of things to me though.

1) Line 1 – Line 6 – Line 7 is a much better way of getting from my area to the stadium than heading north on Line 1 and going through the city centre.

2) Alavés fans are extremely sound (or at least the ones I was speaking to on the Metro are). Bemoaning the slowness of the train and the number of stops on Line 7 one said “It’s faster going from Vitoria to Madrid than this.”

Atlético were in the midst of a defensive injury crisis, meaning an unfamiliar pairing of Lucas and Savic at the back, with Saúl slotting in at left back. Things would get even worse in the first half as Lucas was forced off, to be replaced by the only just back to fitness José María Gimènez. Diego Costa was absent up front meaning a rare start for Nikola Kalinič as the focal point of the attack. The big Croat seemed pretty hapless early on, bumping into people, getting booked and generally being slow to react to his teammates movements, prompting me to muse about how rubbish he was. Then of course, he scored.

It was a great cross by Arías to put the ball on a plate for him and when we saw the replays on the big screens around the ground, the secret of his success was revealed. The vital touch had come courtesy of his stomach! They all count I suppose and the goal did seem to boost his confidence. Simeone was very pleased with him when he came off.

Alavés are clearly a very useful side this season and caused Atlético way more problems than the scoreline suggested. Indeed they had more possession and more shots over the game than their hosts. But even with a patched-up backline, few would bet against Atlético closing out a home game when ahead 1-0. And so they did, with a couple of late goals adding some gloss to the scoreboard.

First Antoine Griezmann found the net, tapping in after his initial effort had come back off the post and then Rodrí prodding home the rebound after Pacheco had saved from Correa. Even in between those two goals, the visitors managed to miss an almost open goal after a rare fumble from Jan Oblak.

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