They came, we saw, we conquered. This game obviously turned on the red card/penalty call–a call that could probably have been just a penalty and yellow card, but which at any rate Marca (the greatest ref-faulters of all-time) felt was a pretty clear red. I think partly because old LuFa seemed a little too willing to go to ground earlier in the game, and partly because dang maybe he should have just already scored by then, I felt a little bad for the expelled guy. Up to that point we’d had the better chances, but Sporting was working their way off their back foot (do they have a front foot?) and we seemed to be backing off, which meant that the game had gone from pretty exciting for the first 15′ or so to the next 15′ being mostly mush.
After that play, and LuFa’s really excellent penalty that needed every centimeter of perfect placement because the ‘keep guessed right and nearly got there, the game was pretty much over, and the only question left was how much our goal differential would be helped by this game. The field seemed to shrink by a third, which is to say our defensive third disappeared, and the ball was either in the midfield, or in their box. The second goal seemed a certainty, and in no time we hit the crossbar, and a few minutes later…well, you can see the highlights.
The second half, which I didn’t get to see all of, was pretty boring, as the game was pretty well in hand. Negredo’s goal, as you can see, was another slice of magic from one of the players we most need to hang on to next summer. The highlights left out a few pieces of individual brilliance from him that didn’t necessarily result in danger, but served to display his quality. Here are the final stats, which sum up the story nicely, and do a great job of explaining why you didn’t see a single offensive movement or play from Gijón in that video:
So. We won a game we had to win, and we won it handily. We did it against a team that had faced Barcelona, Valencia, and Zaragoza in their previous three matches and hadn’t been defeated. We got another clean sheet. We put our goal differential into the black for the first time since…the Barcelona game? Espanyol fell again, leaving 5th place 2 points away. Obviously that doesn’t help us for 4th place, but it doesn’t hurt us for Europa insurance, either. Tomorrow Valencia hosts Barcelona, so we may head into the weekend’s REALLY BIG GAME against Bilbao with an even better look at those CL spots. (I know, Villarreal is currently in 4th and they host Hercules, but STILL. Every point dropped above us counts.)
That’s that, then: three points, a relatively light workout for the boys before a weekend match with a direct rival, and something that looks a little bit like momentum: four games undefeated, for a combined score of 7-2.
Vamos, Sevilla. Vamos.