Fredi Kanouté, Javi VARAS and every defender Marcelino could scrape out of the barrel were needed to hold on for three points today. Before the match took several twists and turns in the second half, the first half was a statement of intent for a Sevilla team that hasn’t impressed going forward at times. Today, the home team ran circles around Los Che for the first 45′, and while it certainly helped that Valencia looked gassed from their midweek match against Barcelona, Sevilla looked dangerous, creative and generally every adjective that didn’t describe our midweek match in Navarra.
Smooth as ever, Kanouté finished an early counter attack after being fed by Navas on the edge of the area. (Side note: is there any doubt that Kanouté is greater for Sevilla that Luis Fabiano was? That was his 130th goal for the club compared with 108 for LuFa.) Navas and Cáceres overwhelmed their defenders on the right side, and Sevilla seemed to find plenty of space on counters and when building from the back. Over on the other side of the formation, Perotti also had one of his better matches of late with intelligent movement and a couple dangerous shots and crosses. All told, we should have gone into halftime with more than a 1-0 lead given the energy of the opponent and the positive attacking play. In fact, a 6th minute mistakenly disallowed goal by Kanouté (assisted by a videogame bicycle kick by Negredo, which was saved into his path) would have given us a more representative scoreline at the break. It wasn’t meant to be.
The second half and the match turned ten minutes in when Trochowski’s second yellow card reduced Sevilla to 10 men. The foul was as useless as it was ugly, and Trocho’s hanging head told the tale. Suddenly, Valencia sprung to life and began harassing Sevilla’s back line, which found itself pressed back deeper than it had been all match. VARAS was tested a few times, and the back line did its best to hold shape and control the ball when given the chance. Ten minutes after going down a man, our suffering reached new lows as Escudé took down Aduriz (more on him later) in the area in what the ref judged to be a “last man” scenario. Thus, Escudé was rewarded with a straight red card for his efforts. Down to nine men and facing a decisive penalty kick, VARAS was sent the wrong way by Ever Banega, whose shot rolled straight into the opposite post and out for Sevilla to clear. Bullet dodging. Is that why VARAS went the other way?
Three minutes later, Spahic got the best of a frustrated Aduriz when the Bosian collapsed to the ground after Aduriz stamped him, which also came after Spahic gently and intentionally stood on his boot. The ref saw the stamp and pulled out the red vinyl square for a third time much to Sr. Llorente’s outrage. Generally, presidents keep silent during the matches so as to maintain the ever-important “señorío” (“gentlemanliness“), but both Del Nido and Llorente were reacting with expressive “Args!” and “Oooo-Ahhhs!” during these violent swings of emotion. There’s an obvious subtext that made both managers extra excitable during the match and react thusly, but we’ll save TV revenue distribution for other (read: many, many more) posts.
VARAS held and the defense also did well to stymie the waves of Che attacks while playing incredibly narrow and blocking a dozen or so crosses before they could reach their destination. Keeping a clean sheet is huge as it’s our third in as many matches, but just as huge is our still undefeated season, and sitting tied for second with 11 points from 15. This stretch of matches is key — that cannot be emphasized enough, and starting it off with a win under difficult circumstances will only ready us more to travel to El Calderón next weekend.
A win is always good. A win against a direct CL rival and after seeing two red cards is better. A win against a direct CL rival and after seeing two red cards in which we played such a competent first half and defended so well in the second is better yet.