2018/19 in Pictures: Games 43 and 44

A Leganés-heavy update this time as I watch them take on Atlético Madrid and then, lured in by the cheap tickets, make another trip to Butarque.

Game 43: Atlético Madrid 1-0 Leganés (Estadio Wanda Metropolitano, Madrid – 9.3.2019)

Another Madrid Derby (I seem to do one of these every other week at the moment) but ultimately one of the most underwhelming matches of the season at the Wanda Metropolitano (or anywhere else).

Two things conditioned this. Firstly, the fact that Atlético were heading to Turin to face Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday night and were keen to keep everyone as fresh as possible and avoid any injuries. Secondly, Leganés had managed to get four players suspended for this match by getting booked in their previous home game, obviously feeling that it was better to have these players miss a likely defeat rather than a game against a direct competitor later in the season.

Despite their focus being clearly on the Champions League game, Atlético still needed a win if they were to keep alive their hopes of reeling in Barcelona at the top of the table.

Very little of any note happened during the first half with Leganés’ on-loan Real Madrid back-up goalkeeper Andriy Lunin making a couple of comfortable saves, all while being booed by the home fans. Atlético’s priorities were summed up by the presumably pre-agreed half time substitution of Griezmann for Lemar.

However, just after the break Atlético got the goal which would ultimately win them the game. Kenneth Omeruo’s clumsy tackle on Angel Correa brought a penalty and although Saúl saw his spot kick saved by Lunin, he was alert enough to convert the rebound (something that won’t be possible from next season thanks to the latest reform of the laws of the game by IFAB.)

And that was basically that. Leganés had plenty of pressure, actually having more possession than their hosts, but never really troubled Jan Oblak. There was a bit of resentment at how easily referee Mateu Lahoz overlooked their claims for a penalty late on in the game when it certainly seemed to be worth at least a second look on VAR, but there were no more goals. Atlético basically finished without a striker on the pitch, Kalinić being withdrawn for JuanFran late on after another anonymous showing.

Arguably the best moment of the game came after the final whistle as the home fans stood to their feet and gave the players a rousing send-off for Turin with a rendition of the club anthem. But we all know how that trip turned out now…

Game 44: Leganés 0-2 Girona (Estadio Municipal de Butarque, Leganés, Madrid – 16.3.2019)

All good things come to an end and Leganés’ unbeaten home run, stretching back to September, followed suit. Across thirteen matches in league and cup, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético, Sevilla, Betis, Valencia and Getafe (amongst others) had all left Butarque without recording a victory, but Girona, whose last visit to Madrid saw them win at the Bernabéu, finally breached Fortress Butarque.

The damage was done in the first half, when Leganés started like a team with one eye already on their summer holidays and were cut apart by Girona’s incisive attacking play, spearheaded by their front two: the brilliant Cristhian Stuani and Portu, who provided the two goals inside the opening 22 minutes.

It almost got worse for Leganés, with Pichu Cuellar tipping Marc Muniesa’s dipping long range shot over before Juanpe hit the bar with the Lega number one well-beaten.

Momentarily they were back in the game as Allan Nyom converted Oscar’s pass, but the flag was up and after consultation with VAR, the goal was ruled out, which looked incredibly harsh from the replay.

That goal could have changed the course of the game as much of the second 45 minutes saw Leganés toiling in the Girona half, unable to muster a meaningful effort on Bono’s goal. They didn’t seem to believe another comeback like the one I witnessed against Eibar in January was possible.

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