After a winter break back in Northern Ireland, 2018/19 in Pictures returns to Spain for two games at the wrong end of La Liga
Game 32: Leganés 1-0 Huesca (Estadio Municipal de Butarque, Leganés, Madrid – 12.1.2019)
For my first game of the new year in Madrid, it was back to Butarque for a relegation six-pointer between La Liga’s two lowest-scoring teams. Bound to be a thriller then?
While not a classic, it was still a thoroughly enjoyable lunchtime kick-off. I even got to break out the sunglasses!
Huesca had won the previous weekend and at least to begin with, they approached the game looking to build on that. Leganés cleared one effort off the line but in what was a must-win for them too, they weren’t showing enough.
Whatever the two managers said at half time clearly had an effect, to extremely differing degrees. Huesca suddenly seemed content with the draw, inexplicable in the context of them being adrift at the bottom of the league. Their goalkeeper was even booked for time-wasting around the hour.
Leganés were attacking with more purpose but as has been the problem so often this season, their finishing let them down. When he wasn’t trying to run down the clock, Roberto Santamaría was keeping Huesca in the game.
The breakthrough finally came on 74 minutes with a lovely finish from Youssef En-Nesyri, side-footing Jonathan Silva’s cross past Santamaría. Earlier in the season, En-Nesyri scored the goal which gave Lega a historic win over Barcelona. This one might prove just as important.
Nabil El Zhar missed a great chance to put the game to bed and there were a few nervy moments for the home side during the seemingly interminable six minutes of added time, but they held out and recorded a huge victory to finish the primera vuelta on a winning note.
Game 33: Rayo Vallecano 2-2 Real Sociedad (Estadio de Vallecas, Madrid – 20.1.2019)
The Estadio de Vallecas is the place to go for goals in Madrid this season. My three trips there have produced a grand total of 14 goals. Great for the neutral, but matches like this one must be horribly frustrating for the Rayo faithful, as they threw away a comfortable-looking 2-0 lead and could easily have gone on to lose it.
After the first half hour everything looked to be going according to plan for Rayo. Santi Comesaña’s piledriver from the edge of the area flew past the despairing dive of Rulli to put them in front and then a wonderful through ball gave Adrián Embarba a clear run on goal and he made no mistake with his clipped finish.
But time after time this season, poor defending has cost Rayo dearly. And in the 39th minute they totally switched off at a set piece and allowed Hector Moreno to find space and head home Asier Illarramendi’s free kick, cutting their lead in half.
Both teams continued to have chances after the break, Bebé going close for Rayo, but La Real slowly but surely began to exert their dominance and more catastrophic defending gave them the opportunity to pull level.
The Rayo defence totally failed to track the run of Adnan Januzaj and although Rayo ‘keeper Dimitrievski managed to stop him from shooting, the ball rebounded to Willian José, who lifted it into the unguarded net.
You could sense the feeling of frustration as the home fans filed out of the stands. Wonderfully entertaining they may be, but for now Rayo remain in the bottom three.