As ugly as the recent Clasicos have been, this certainly wasn’t any sort of highlight for ‘La Liga B’, the also-rans if you will.
Our side will feel fortunate to have played the entire game with all eleven men, as Navarro was quite lucky not to see red inside of fifteen minutes for a fairly clear handball preventing, in the parlance, a clear goal scoring opportunity. Instead of going down a man and most likely a goal from the resulting penalty, we escaped to continue our opening sleepwalk for another ten minutes or so without any damage.
Rakitic looked to be carrying an injury entering the game, and was subbed off for Renato just shy of half an hour. Following the substitution, our side’s play improved from near death to, well, breathing. Capel was stopped pointblank in the 25th and we continued to improve and assert ourselves throughout the balance of the half.
The game changing moment occurred early in the second half, as Caceres suffered a nasty challenge from Almeria defender Jacobsen, who somehow managed to go studs up to the side of Caceres’ head. His impressive show of athleticism resulted in a direct red, and Renato headed home the eventual winner two minutes later as Alves and a central defender conspired to allow a cross from Rodri to bounce in the box and through to Renato, and then to the open net. Varas was called upon to make exactly one save in the second half, but it was worthy of mention as it required a fine effort to palm the ball off the line as our defense allowed a header off a free kick with a mere eight minutes of time left.
And so the plodding march to Europa qualification continues…I’d like to see us really put a bottom dweller like Almeria away early and with authority, but apparently we don’t work like that. Still, three points is three points, and, ugly or pretty, they all count the same.