Thursday, February 14, 2013

Spain February 2013

A three game weekend in Spain travelling from Madrid to Valencia and returning to the capital for two Sunday fixtures.

Isco kid double.

9th February 2013   Levante 1 Malaga 2  Primera Liga  14,684 (c.100 away)

I arrived after a flight from London and a, at times, 300km/hour train ride from Madrid to Valencia.

Where there was a feeling of the end of winter as the daylight stretched to nearly 7pm.
The locals strolled around the centre, in particular the impressive cathedral area and the protestors reminded everyone of the current political situation.

The stadium is a forty minute walk from the centre of the city and as is typical it reflects the club (red/blue) colours.

Looking at the teams Malaga had the ‘names’ e.g. Isco, Baptista, Toulalan, Saviola and Demichelis.
And it was the first mentioned who would make the difference, scoring from a (dubious) penalty and again from the edge of the area when given too much space.

Levante had taken the lead from Barkero’s penalty on 25 minutes after the lively Obafemi Martins had been knocked down. But they were second best for most of the match.

It needed a brisk walk back to warm-up, helped by some vino whilst watching the later games on TV.

Goalless in Fuenlabrada.

10th February  Fuenlabrada 0 Alcala 0  Segunda B  c.300

Having taken the morning train from Valencia to Madrid I had just enough time to get to Fuenlabrada, via the metro, for this midday kick-off.

In difficult windy conditions on a lively pitch the most notable events in this game were the sending off of an Alcala player after about 17 minutes and two late chances for each side.

The visitors played well with ten men and should have scored when their no.10 was clear from a breakaway in the second period but he delayed too long.
And in added time the Fuenlabrada striker badly mishit a cross when near goal.

So it stayed goalless.

Juli and Camille are hot but Andy Pando doesn’t appear.

10th February  Alcorcon 3 Las Palmas 1  Segunda Liga   2,000 (c.100 away)

A bitterly cold ‘3-dog night’ (for me a five-layer night including two woolly hats, two pairs of socks and thermals) enlivened by a dynamic performance from the home side and an outstanding ‘gangnam style’ dance by a ballboy at half-time.

Alcorcon look a force, certainly at home, as they went hard at the visitors, who for the most part couldn’t handle the pace of the attacks.

Initially Las Palmas had more play and the lightning quick Thievy was a constant threat.
But the match turned on 26 minutes as the excellent Juli finished off a move down the right and that was followed by Oriol scoring when given far too much time just before half time.

A third converted from the near post by Fernando Sales sealed the victory.

The visitors did get a late consolation from sub. Chrisantus after good work by Thievy but this win moved Alcorcon up to third in the second division.

The stadium, in a unspectacular southern suburb of Madrid, is compact with mostly open seating (not so good on a rainy night) painted in the club’s yellow colours.
Some 100 or so supported Las Palmas though I guess most would be Madrid based.

Particularly for older viewers the endearingly named Andy Pando sadly didn’t make an appearance.

more pictures at

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Portugal February 2013

A short visit to northern Portugal for two top level matches.

From Stansted to Porto on a cool, breezy early February day.
The Ryanair flight was full but left on time and arrived, helpfully, 30 minutes ahead of schedule.

Then a ride on the modern metro to downtown, followed by a return trip towards Varzim, getting off at Vila do Conde for :-

2nd February  Rio Ave 2 Sporting 1  2,356 (c. 500 away)  Primeira Liga

Not only a football ground but the impressive remains of an eighteenth century viaduct greet you as you disembark from the metro.

I wonder if Ricky van Wolfswinkel will have his historical monument ?
On this evidence it is unlikely.

He spent most of the game isolated up front as the other Sporting players tried to develop attacks down the flanks. Rarely did he get involved, apart from a few slim half chances.
But for a ‘penalty-box striker’ I suppose that can happen, especially away from home.

It had all started so comfortably for Sporting when Diego Capel crossed for Jeffren to score in the sixth minute.
Jeffren had another good opportunity later in the first half but the home goalie saved his effort.

And so Rio Ave would equalise just before half time as Tarantini’s shot was deflected past Rui Patricio and the momentum switched towards the home team.
Culminating in Bebe delivering to Ukra who forced in the winner, again via a deflection.

Sporting thus languish well down the league table and Rio Ave, in fifth, have a shot at the top three.
The visiting fans brought along plenty of banners which mostly seemed to criticise the League management.

As the match went on it had got significantly cooler so I was glad there was a convenient 8pm metro train back to the centre.
There I chose a local ‘6 euro meal’ (lamb and red wine) whilst watching the evening match on TV.

3rd February  Gil Vicente 4 Maritimo 2    2,289  Primeira Liga

Barcelos is about an hour by train from Porto and the newish Gil Vicente stadium is a steady 30 minute walk from the station.

Before that I had arrived early and enjoyed sitting outside a central cafe to watch the world go by in bright sunny conditions. The ‘world’ included a loudspeaker van that, I think, was promoting that afternoon’s game.

Which was not a bad shout as the home side were good value for their win.
The victory began with a Joao Vilela penalty after Hugo Vieira had been brought down in the area.

A second was added on thirty seven minutes and although Maritimo replied with their own penalty the home side stretched their lead with two Vieira goals. The final goal being at the end of a superb passing move (accompanied by Ole’s from the crowd)

Vilela did get a red card for a bad tackle but that didn’t really hamper Gil Vicente.
Maritimo kept going and they got a second consolation in the final minute of added time although I don’t think there were any away fans there to celebrate.

The stadium is impressive for a less heralded club with two tiers behind one goal and cover all around.

One or two themes stick in the mind after these two games (apart from the enigma that is Ricky van Wolfswinkel) - the continuing inability of most local players to take throw-ins correctly and the tactic that ‘if you scream’ during a tackle the opposing player will get booked.

And when you contemplate the history of the Portuguese top flight the continued dominance of the same few teams - since 1935 ,apart from a single title for Belenenses and Boavista, every championship has been won by either Benfica, Porto or Sporting (and that situation is unlikely to change anytime soon)

I travelled back via another very busy flight to Stansted - this time it just made it on time.

more pictures at