UEFA Champions League – Group D – Game 1
Two visits from our now familiar friends from Mönchengladbach in the space of seven months brought an even more familiar outcome as the German side were swept aside with consummate ease. A last minute rush to the gates meant that I, and thousands more, only entered the stadium in time for the glorious and inspiring Champions League anthem. There was little time for nerves. It was finally happening! Seville Football Club, back where they belong in the World’s greatest club competition. Game on!
The game, not surprisingly, started fairly slowly, both teams perhaps low on confidence finding their feet in the cauldron of noise. Thankfully though, it didn’t take long for Seville to settle, and the first warning for the visitors came from the boots of Vitolo and Reyes. Whilst surrounded by several Borussia defenders, Vitolo struck a low shot hard against the post from the edge of the area. The goalkeeper could only watch in horror as Reyes followed in for the rebound, but amazingly he fluffed the easiest of chances high over the crossbar. It seemed he was already planning his celebration in front of his much loved Biris and therefore lacked the concentration required for such a routine finish. This however set the tone for a first half which was dominated by the home side. Gameiro tested their keeper on a few occasions, and was unfortunate not to steer a header from an inch perfect Reyes cross in at the near post. It wasn’t all one way traffic, and Gladbach could have been ahead from a header 6 yards out that went narrowly wide. This would prove to be their only chance of the entire game though, and Seville continued to smell blood, and pressed hard for an opener that ultimately wouldn’t arrive until after the break.
Half time, and out came thousands of aluminium foil wrapped home made sandwiches. It never ceases to amaze me how well organised and civilised football fans are in Spain can be!
I decided to ditch waiting any longer in line (well, they don’t really do lines in Spain) for a cheap hot-dog, and hurriedly made my way back to my seat for the second half… and I am so glad that I did. Before I could even make my way down the stairs to my seat, we broke down the left wing at speed, Banega made a run into the box and collected the through ball, within seconds he expertly cut the ball back for the onrushing Vitolo, who could barely believe his luck as he could see from the corner of his eye that the goalkeeper was making a lunge for the ball. This was too good an opportunity to pass up, and Vitolo gladly (and perhaps expertly) went flying through the air. Penalty! Gameiro stepped up and blasted the ball high into the roof of the net! Finally, the breakthrough we craved. 1-0!
As expected Borussia tried to respond, but this was only playing into our hands as a lightning fast counter attack so reminiscent of last season, ended with a purposeful charge into to the box by that man Vitolo led to the clumsiest of defensive efforts, and down he went… again! Penalty number two! No one could believe it, but it looked as clear cut as could be from my vantage point. As a side note, how much must the BMG fans be sick of the sight of Vitolo, after last seasons Europa League winning goal and now this! Gameiro again confidently strode up to the spot, and in an attempt to emulate his first penalty, he over-cooked it and the ball smashed off the bar, and back out. Ouch!
As it turned out, there was no need to worry, as a third penalty would soon follow, this time with Gameiro winning it. This provoked some angry reaction from the travelling fans as at least one bottle of half finished coca cola rained down onto the police in the lower tier. Their frustration at the referee was understandable, but really they had no reason to protest, as this was the clearest penalty of the lot! Gameiro expertly won the ball from a defensive clearance, and in an effort to then get the ball under his control he was clearly taken out by a mistimed and desperate challenge. Gameiro did the sensible thing, whether through choice or not, and handed the ball to Banega, who cooly slotted the ball low into the keeper’s bottom right hand corner. Even if the goalkeeper chose to dive in that direction, the accuracy may have been too much to cope with. 2-0!
The third was comical to say the least. Krohn-Dehli looked frustrated at the lack of options in the middle for his corner, and seemed to settle for passing short to Konoplyanka, who had only just run on the field 10 seconds previously. As MKD made a run infield to receive the return pass, Kono headed for the byline, and with his second touch, whipped in a dangerous looking low and hard cross, only for the ball to veer towards the goal. Their goalkeeper reacted too slowly and could only parry the ball into the corner of the net. 3-0! Game over!
Borussia pressed, and again we countered effectively. Immobile coming close with a solid header on target from another perfectly weighted Reyes delivery. My only criticism there was all strikers know the most effective way to score a header is to head into the ground, as the bounce is often too much for the keeper to handle. The save was good, but the header was at a good height to make the keeper look better than he perhaps was.
The final whistle came shortly after, and we celebrated a great start. A sense of relief mixed with satisfaction filled the air, and the locals dispersed into the Nervión bars knowing that the season had finally begun. This was all a little bit too easy, and not even half as much of a challenge as our Europa League tie last season. To be fair to Borussia, they were missing several key players, and have been on an awful run of form which has seen them sit rock bottom of the Bundesliga after four games. The noisy, beer filled, and numerous away support (1,900 of them) in the end could do little to prevent their hapless team from being torn apart. In hindsight,with the amount of chances that went begging, especially in the first half, they could have lost by more than three.
The full time stats were telling…
So three goals, and three deserved points, equates to a job well done. Whether this tells the whole story of a welcome return to last season’s form for Emery’s men remains to be seen, and two penalties and a goalkeeping error from a mishit cross does little to cover over the cracks when it comes to taking chances. Tougher tests await us for sure, but for now we can be happy that the important first win is out of the way, and start looking forward to using the motivation and confidence from last night’s victory into the league on Sunday (lunch time) against a high flying, but ultimately beatable, Celta de Vigo.
Onwards and upwards!