As La Liga reaches the first international break of the 2018-19 season we’ll take a look at the three big derbies that were played at the weekend.
Real Betis 1-0 Sevilla
In spite of their winless start to the season, the Betis fans knew that this would be the perfect opportunity to throw down a marker for this season by beating their hated rivals from across the city. The atmosphere at Estadio Benito Villamarín was electric before kick off as the Betis fans displayed a mosaic in their famous green and white, while the few Sevilla fans revealed a banner telling their neighbours to look upon their crest and tremble.
The match was fast paced from the kick off and the sense of urgency displayed by both teams went in tandem with a lack of precision in their passing. The game settled into a pattern of Betis holding possession at the back with their three centre-backs rotating the ball across the pitch and aiming to open up the Sevilla backline with direct balls into the forwards and wing-backs but Sevilla were content to sit back and spring counter attacks. As the teams went into the break at half-time both would have been frustrated at not having created many clear cut chances.
The games major turning point came in the 66th minute as Roque Mesa was given a controversial second yellow card for impeding Betis goalkeeper Pau López. Replays show that it was in fact the Betis keeper who had thrown himself into Mesa but the league’s VAR implementation does not account for bookable offences. Mesa has endured a torrid time since leaving Las Palmas and this injustice may be a sign that his luck isn’t about to turn just yet.
With Sevilla a man down Quique Setién turned to his bench and introduced Betis icon Joaquín. After coming into the season injured the captain of the green and whites was, by his own admition, only fit to play a maximum of twenty minutes but he only needed five to turn the tide in favour of the home team. A deep cross from the impressive Aïssa Mandi was met by Joaquín ghosting in at the far post and the stadium erupted. Joaquín’s emotional celebration, tearing off his shirt and jumping into the crowd, shows how much this means to the fans in Seville and this win will provide Betis with some much needed momentum heading into the autumn.
Eibar 2-1 Real Sociedad
Although one of the least glamorous of La Liga’s derbies, the clash of the two guipuzkoan teams at Ipurua was a fascinating game. Asier Garitano took Sociedad to one of his former clubs in the hope of continuing their good start to the season but came unstuck after a battling performance.
The txuri-urdin started the match at a relentless pace and Eibar struggled to string any passes together in the opening quarter of an hour. Juanmi raced into the area unmarked and was brought down by Eibar goalkeeper Marco Dmitrović, who might have seen red but was deemed to be challenging for the ball in what was a generous decision from the referee. Willian José scored the subsequent penalty but injured his groin in the process, leaving his team without their most potent attacking threat for the remainder of the match.
Eibar equalised less than ten minutes later after Marc Cardona turned in a cross from Anaitz Arbilla. The Catalan striker was delighted with scoring his first ever La Liga goal on his debut in the competition but he has Arbilla to thank for some brilliant work on the left flank and an equally cute dummy from strike partner Sergi Enrich. Eibar’s chances of finding a winner looked to take a hit after their brightest spark, Fabianán Orellana, was forced off through injury a minute before half-time, followed by centre-back Pedro Bigas a minute after the break and the armeros had to thank Dmitrović for a fine save to keep Juanmi from scoring a close range header.
The match seemed to be petering out into a draw with both teams struggling to create chances from midfield. Garitano threw on youngster Martín Merquelanz to make his debut in the final minutes of the match but the midfielder suffered what appears to be a serious knee injury after only three minutes of senior football. After seeing their young teammate stretchered off and down to ten men Sociedad let their concentration slip. Joan Jordan put in a deep cross which was met by Charles who glanced a header past Rulli in stoppage time to win the game for Eibar. Asier Garitano looked suitably angered at the final whistle with his team perhaps deserving the victory but Eibar fans may be heartened after watching their team struggle in their first two games of the season.
Levante 2-2 Valencia
Valencia came into this game looking for the win that would kick start their season after a sluggish start while Levante were aiming to turn their early season form into a derby win at home. With the match inexplicably being played at midday the pace was understandably not quite what is to be expected of a heated local rivalry; however, the weather was no excuse for some uncharacteristically poor defending from the away team.
Levante’s opener came after Dani Parejo played a suicidal pass to opposition captain José Luis Morales deep in Levante’s own half. Morales did what he does best and stormed forward past three Valencia players before laying the ball off to Emmanuel Boateng who shot tamely at goal. The danger seemed to have passed for Los Che but Neto somehow could only parry the ball into the path of the onrushing Roger who didn’t fluff his chance.
Valencia hit back almost immediately with Carlos Soler sending in a wonderful cross for Denis Cheryshev to score the first goal of his second stint at Valencia. Both Soler’s cross and Cheryshev’s movement were delightful but they were both outshone by Roger who restored Levante’s lead just after the half hour mark. A long ball from Enis Bardhi reached the striker as he peeled between two defenders and the former Valencia youth teamer brought the ball down without breaking his stride and calmly slotted the ball past a helpless Neto.
Levante spent the remainder of the match soaking up pressure from their city rivals but Valencia managed to equalise after Dani Parejo slotted home a penalty following a foul on the impressive Soler. Coke made things difficult for his team after picking up what looked to be an avoidable second yellow card but Levante saw the match out to pick up another point and go into the international break undefeated. Valencia will see the result as disappointing but they need to improve defensively if they are to replicate last season’s form.
Getafe 0-0 Real Valladolid
Villarreal 0-1 Girona
Real Madrid 4-1 Leganés
Celta Vigo 2-0 Atlético Madrid
Barcelona 8-2 Huesca
Alavés 2-1 Espanyol
Rayo Vallecano P-P Athletic Club
Performance of the week: Jordi Alba. He may not be in the Spain squad but if he continues to play like he did against Huesca on Sunday there is no chance that Luis Enrique can ignore his former player.
Disappointment of the week: Atlético Madrid. An insipid performance with no shots on target. Is the problem Diego Costa? Simeone’s refusal to change up his tactics? Whatever it is, Atléti need to find a solution quickly if they don’t want to be left behind by the big two.