Week 11 – La Liga.
Despite beating Barcelona around a month ago, few could have predicted another victorious outcome with the visit of Real Madrid on Sunday night. Back then Barca, relatively weakened by the absence of the world’s greatest player and a signing ban, still dominated long periods of the game, and since then other results against more illustrious opponents (Juve and Man City x2) had not gone too well. Not to mention that now we were the ones missing our key man upfront, and with two under-performing replacements to choose from, the signs didn’t look good. So, was the Barca score a fluke that papered over the cracks, or could this team really turn it on against the big boys when they need to?
Given the build up, it was of little surprise if optimism wasn’t running particularly high, but in typical Sevillista fashion the stadium was once again full and vociferous as kick off approached, the fans once again believing whole heartedly in their team. Immobile given a starting place and the chance that he undoubtedly had been craving, and Mariano preferred over Coke on the right. Another opportunity for the Brazilian to show Emery why he should be the first choice there. Konoplyanka again starting ahead of Reyes, which appears to be the norm these days, and what many Sevillistas were expecting to happen earlier in the season.
Real started the game brightly, but we weathered the early storm, and despite an long range effort from Danilo (I think) that cannoned off the inside of the post, we looked fairly comfortable at the back without offering much going forward. Lessons learned from offering too much space too early in the game against Man City perhaps? Emery was trying to keep things tight, and it looked to have worked well. Things took a bad turn around the 20 minute mark however when ex-Sevillista Sergio Ramos, following in the footsteps of Jesus Navas a few nights earlier, stuck the dagger into our collective heart with an acrobatic effort from a corner kick that found its way low into the corner of the net. Sergio Rico helpless to stop it, but he wouldn’t have been happy with the amount of space his defence conceded as the opposition lined up to shoot. 0-1.
Unlike on Tuesday though, the mood didn’t drop and the team picked up a gear or two, some good movement down the left hand side resulting in a dangerous ball into the area that the eager and industrious Immobile was inches away from connecting with, some last ditch defending thwarting him on that occasion. Mariano later took matters into his own hands and cut inside and let a left footed shot rip, but it was well wide. With Ramos leaving the field injured to a mix of applause and whistles, the normally solid defence of Madrid began to look even more shaky, and thankfully would eventually crumble. The crowd, enthused by the way we responded to going behind turned up the volume and the energy levels in the players visibly increased as Madrid blood, it seems, was sensed by all.
More pressure eventually led to a corner that allowed N’Zonzi a free header, only for his tame effort to drift across the face of goal which allowed Immobile to seize his moment and lash the loose ball over the line from an almost impossible angle. Real were sleeping, Immobile was not complaining. The relief of getting off the mark clear for all to see as he threw his shirt into the fans behind the goal. Over the top celebration? Try telling him that! And probably the best yellow card he had ever received. Notably, fellow players on and off the pitch shared in his joy, all was forgiven! 1-1
The second half started well, and will probably be remembered for a long time for the performance of our ever improving Ukranian. Kono’s direct running, and skill wreaked havoc in the Madrid defence, and one particular run from deep, in which he bypassed the entire midfield effortlessly was cooly finished off by Banega who intelligently continued his run into the box, anticipating the cut back and finding space between three Madrid defenders. Big shout out to Immobile also, who’s quick thinking for the return pass played a big part in the goal. 2-1 what a turnaround!!
Real continued to create half chances, but most of their shots from distance didn’t trouble us too much. Their best chance ended with Sergio Rico making the save of the game from Danilo’s downward header, which in hindsight could have been the turning point in the half. Madrid heads (especially Ronaldo and Bale) notably kept dropping after every failed chance, and the body language (hands on hips) looked like one of players who just knew it wasn’t going to be their night.
With around 20 minutes remaining, Immobile, looking a bit leggy by this point, was replaced by Llorente, who shortly after would give us reason to really believe! After great work again by Tremo and Kono down the left, the ball eventually found its way across goal and to Mariano who was in an advanced position down the right. His cross from the edge of the box was met by the head of the quick thinking Llorente (second time they have linked up for a goal now) and as the net bulged the stadium rocked! 3-1. Interesting to note how far forward Tremolinas was when Mariano crossed the ball! Our 2 full backs were the most advanced players on the park, and only yards from each other! His presence there undoubtedly opened up some extra space for Llorente to exploit! Very pleasing.
MKD came on for Banega with ten minutes to go, and he helped control the pace of the game to walking speed, and we all knew that the game was effectivley over as the “Olés” greeted every pass. Deep into injury time, Madrid, like a stubborn bull that didn’t know when it was bloody and beaten, finally got their second goal when James Rodriguez let fly from the edge of the area, but by then it was too late. 3-2 Sevilla had done it again! The Himno sang by 40,000 drowning out the final whistle as we celebrated another big win, and hopefully this time, a change in form and fortunes!
Full time: Seville 3 Real Madrid 2
My Man of the Match: Konoplyanka
Barely six months ago, we, as a club, were strong-knit, determined, and everyone knew their specific role in the machine. As a result we were glorious, and finally victorious! Changes in the summer were inevitable however, all of which would, as it always does, result in collective and individual transformations, especially where it matters most, on the pitch. The weight of expectation would lie heavily on those who remained, and those who ‘replaced’ the outgoing heroes would have different pressures to contend with.
Fast forward six months, and it safe to say, it has NOT been an easy ride, but my goodness tonight (or last night), and forgive my for jumping the gun, but tonight we may have finally turned the corner! After the disappointment of Tuesday night’s well deserved thrashing to Man City, few (myself included) would have fancied us for this win, or even a measly point against one of the world’s greatest sides, especially with their self confessed “legend” at its helm. However, we were not intimidated, showed a never say die attitude, and despite going a goal behind fought hard for all three points. One thing that also amazed me is how we controlled the game in the final quarter, and even slowed the pace right down to what we wanted to play! This was top class stuff against a very intimidating opponent.
It would appear the Man City defeat (especially at home) hurt Emery and the team hard. It certainly hurt the Biris who for the first time in my experience of attending the RSP, appeared to give up their incessant chanting. There was a gloom hanging around the red half of the city for a few days, and the Beticos were loving every minute of it (some even wearing Man City shirts to school/on the streets the next day). Their victory over Malaga, and subsequent leap above us in he table on Saturday giving them even more reason to gloat. They never learn though. Regardless, we have hopefully put that defeat (and all the others) to bed now, and can kick on after the international break with a renewed sense of belief that a slow start was in many ways inevitable/unavoidable, and that we can rise to greatness once again and salvage our season. As it stands we are only 6 points behind Celta Vigo and the fourth Champions League spot, so all is definitely not lost.
And finally, having not just one but two inform back ups to Gameiro is so vitally important, and hopefully Immobile and Llorente can keep the confidence and morale high as we need every member of the squad to be pulling their weight as the season unfolds. Who knows, maybe they can eventually challenge him for the starting position? Let’s not get too carried away yet perhaps!
Thanks for reading
¡Vamos mi Sevilla!