Late-show stoppers

What is it that gives some teams that annoying ability to score late on, to come back at the death when all seems…well, dead?  Barcelona have had this particular ability for some time now, demonstrating it during a quite amazing game in midweek at Villarreal where they turned around a 4-2 deficit in added time to draw 4-4, and persisting against Atlético in Saturday’s crucial game until the 85th minute, then scoring again immediately afterwards.  The great Liverpool side of the 1980s had this as part of their repertoire too, and sometimes it’s difficult to analyse exactly how it works. Continue reading “Late-show stoppers”

View from a bar

The famous exam question says ‘Compare and Contrast’ but we all know the chasm under the bridge that separates the land of Real Madrid from Planet Huesca. Sunday’s visit to the Bernabéu was their first in 59 years as a professional club, with the most recent precedent of Burgos winning in the Bernabéu on their first visit, back in 1990.  2,000 fans decided to go along, despite the game being scheduled as the ‘partidazo’ that closes the week and is played at 20.45 in the evening.  But as Sir Mick once said, catch your dreams before they slip away.  Huesca are bottom, rather as they expected to be, but with Villarreal losing at Celta (after being 0-2 up) the final safety position was still at a possible, but not very probable seven points.  Whatever, enjoy the status of top flight while you can, and meanwhile, try to upset the merengue cart. Continue reading “View from a bar”

Messi steals the show

Summary of the weekend in LaLiga

Plenty of narratives could have become the centre of this article in an eventful weekend of Spanish football, but I wisely chose to start writing after the end of the last match. Barcelona were due at Betis in the Sunday evening Partidazo, and after Setien’s team win in the Camp Nou a few months ago, it was easy to expect a serious, determined perhaps vengeful performance by Messi & co. If Barcelona needed some extra motivation, on Saturday Atletico had lost in Bilbao, which meant that a victory of the Azulgrana in Sevilla could also give them a 10-point advantage with 10 matches left. Continue reading “Messi steals the show”

The Horny Zombies of Getafe

There are some nice images from this weekend’s action in Spain.  I particularly like the one of Alaves’ Takashi Inui  (‘Taka’ to his friends) being hugged at the end of the game by his ex-team-mates from Eibar, even though he’d just scored against them and celebrated the goal,  breaking the unspoken Spanish law which states: ‘Thou shalt not celebrate a goal against thy ex-team-mates unless thou hast not played for said team for some time and/or thou hast left in a cloud of pissed-offness’.  Inui, polite to a fault as the Japanese tend to be, begged for forgiveness after the game but decided not to commit suicide on his ceremonial sword – possibly because the result was 1-1 but also because his departure from Eibar to Betis at the end of last season was conducted in perfectly amicable circumstances. In fact Inui failed miserably at Betis, despite the fact that his style of play suited theirs, clearly one of the reasons  why Quique Setién fancied him, only to subsequently leave him rotting on the bench. Continue reading “The Horny Zombies of Getafe”

All you need is hope and love

There’s plenty to talk about this weekend, although many columns have already been filled regarding the ‘clásico week’.  The problem, however, with too much focus on the terrible twins is that it can detract from other worthy stuff in Spain, of which there was plenty at the weekend. Continue reading “All you need is hope and love”

Shakespeare Terminator

When talking of Messi, as I’m going to do, it probably helps to bring in Shakespeare – not that Messi is an avid reader of the Bard, preferring as he does the instruction book to the PS4, which he claims was the last book he read.  This is a shame because in Sonnet 48 there’s a neat little couplet that goes:

“Dear killer, spare not thy sweet cruel shot / A kind of grace it is to kill with speed.” Continue reading “Shakespeare Terminator”

Place your bets

If you’re somewhat familiar with betting on Spanish football, you probably know that if you want to make some cash on a top LaLiga team not winning its weekend match, you must wait until the do or die part of the Champions League starts. Key players are rested, the general mindset of the team is not quite focused on what the weekend match means, even the fans are not totally considering the importance of the three points at stake… until it’s too late. Continue reading “Place your bets”

Four score and ten

As I tap on the keyboard on Sunday night in Spain, it is exactly 90 years to the day when La Liga was officially formed.  It should have started in September 1928 but there had been a dispute over the format of the league, so no surprises there.  Of the ten sides invited to participate that February, six are still in the top flight (Real and Atlético Madrid, Barcelona, Espanyol, Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao).  The region with most clubs was the more prosperous and industrialised Basque Country, with four sides (Sociedad, Athletic, Real Unión and Arenas de Getxo), with Catalunya in second place with three (Barcelona, Español and CD Europa), the team ‘Europa’ from the Barcelona neighbourhood of Gracìa lasting for three seasons before disappearing into the murky depths of regional football. They play in ‘Tercera’ (3rd Division) now.  Racing Santander, from the Cantabria region and now in Segunda ‘B’, made up the roster. Continue reading “Four score and ten”

Ama a tu prójimo

La mayor diferencia entre los “viejos tiempos” y el juego moderno no es el contraste entre estar de pie en el fondo norte o sentarse en un civilizado asiento de plástico, sino más bien la compañía que uno se ve obligado a mantener. En los viejos tiempos (vi mi primer partido profesional en vivo en 1966), la gente solía andar en áreas similares del estadio: los jóvenes detrás de los goles y los más viejos en las posiciones laterales, pero dentro de esas configuraciones había mucha flexibilidad. Podías elegir entre quedarte en el nivel más abajo o superior, o, si estuvieras en ubicación lateral, moverte hacia la izquierda o hacia la derecha, dependiendo de en qué gol atacase tu equipo. No había asientos, ni mucho menos localidades asignadas, así que te ponías donde querías. Continue reading “Ama a tu prójimo”

Love thy neighbour

The biggest difference between the ‘old days’ and the modern game is not the contrast between standing on the terraces and sitting in a plastic bucket seat, but rather the company that one is forced to keep. In the old days (I saw my first live’ pro game in 1966), people tended to hang around in the same area of a stadium – the young ‘uns classically behind the goals and the older supporters in the ‘side stands’ as they were called, but within those configurations there was plenty of flexibility.  You could choose to stand at pitch level, higher up, or if you were in a ‘side stand’ you could move to the left or right, depending on which goal your team was attacking.

Continue reading “Love thy neighbour”