Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Spain November 2015

England’s friendly in Alicante plus a couple of Spanish second division matches.

I flew from Stansted to Alicante on the Thursday evening, the day before this England match.

13th November 2015  Spain 2 England 0 Alicante     Friendly international   c. 5,000 away

Why go to Benidorm when Alicante offers a conducive environment of bars and restaurants albeit without Watney’s Red Barrel (or the equivalent) and fish & chips ?

Its a pleasant, medium-sized city with a stadium that is walkable from the centre.
On a reasonably mild evening the ground was well-filled.

England have arranged a series of challenging friendlies, ahead of Euro 2016, to test themselves following a facile qualification group.
This first test was failed - fairly comprehensively.

Spain soon established a familiar rhythm that seem to bemuse the English stars.
Ross Barkley, amongst others, would come to realise the reality of top level international football.

But for all their dominance the Spanish side ultimately lacked a cutting edge.

That was until a sublime finish from Mario Gaspar on 72 minutes, acrobatically volleying in from a Fabregas pass, gave the home team the lead.
Sub Santi Cazorla added a second 12 minutes later to complete a deserved 2-0 win.

Yes England did clip the bar and Harry Kane missed a good chance but overall you felt Spain had won, although against an under-strength opposition, without getting into top gear.

Sterling was one who did offer some hope for the ‘Three Lions’ , and Kane a solid perseverance,  but it leaves plenty for Roy Hodgson to contemplate.

Looking ahead many would predict the ‘usual’ tournament outcome for England - quarter final exit.
While Spain, for whom Gerard Pique was consistently whistled by the home fans, would expect at least a semi-final appearance.

14th November  Leganes 3 Alcorcon 0  Segunda Division     5,538  c. 400 away

I travelled on the train to the capital to see this local derby.

Not that it has any of the visceral atmosphere of a clasico in South America.
The visiting fans could easily mix in with the locals on a cooling evening.

After a slow start the match was brightened by two great home goals.

Firstly striker Guillermo converted from close in for the first then soon after Szymanowski drove in a great right footer from 25 yards.
Guillermo would seal the win with a feint and an excellent left foot finish in the second period.

Alcorcon repeatedly failed to make anything of their free kicks and also missed a couple of decent chances.
It was a bad day at the office for the visitors and the result allowed Leganes to match the Alcorcon points total

I took the metro to my hotel in Getafe and settled for a chicken asado.

15th November  Cordoba 1 Huesca 1  Segunda Division   14,500

From Madrid south to Cordoba and another very pleasant mid-sized historic Spanish City.

My hotel was in the old Roman area with its temple and burial areas.
Nearby were typical bars and restaurants.

Again the local stadium is walkable (25 minutes) from the centre.
Its a good sized, two-tiered, all covered, ground kitted out in green and white.

Beforehand we had the club song and some sombre music to commemorate the atrocities in Paris.

When the match began Cordoba, the league leaders, soon showed a confident attacking approach and they pressed back the much lower placed visitors.
Victor Perez tested the Huesca goalie with some fine long range shots while ex-Arsenal player Fran Merida provided the odd threat for the visitors.

Though the first half ended goalless it seemed only a matter of time before Cordoba would go ahead.
It happened after Fidel got booked for ‘simulation’.
Afterwards he immediately went on a Messi like run along the right wing, all left foot, before delivering past sub goalie Whalley on 53 minutes.

But eventually the momentum altered, a combination of more Huesca aggression and Cordoba consolidation.
And so late on Machis (again from the right wing) drove in a great left foot effort for the equaliser.
That rather stunned the home crowd who would have expected another three points.

Back in the centre I enjoyed a ‘menu’ meal plus some vino tinto.

Overall it had been a pleasant visit to Spain with some decent football, pleasant ambience and excellent logistics.

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