Thursday, January 28, 2016

Italy January 2016

Three games in Italy including a Serie A game at Frosinone.

22nd January 2016  Salernitana 3 Brescia 0  Serie B  9,715  (c. 100 away)

I travelled to Napoli then took the train onto Salerno from where I took a bus from the seafront, south to my hotel near the Stadio Arechi.

Which is a sizeable two-tier ground, in contrast to the old Stadio Donato Vestuti that still remains, crumbling, close to the centre.
Salernitana get good support highlighted by their ultras who provided strong encouragement for their heroes.

The home side were under threat early on but they had a stroke of luck on 23 minutes when a cross was mishandled by the Brescia goalie and went in off defender Racine Coly for an o.g.

Much higher ranked Brescia then a had great chance to level when Andrea Caracciolo was put through but his effort was blocked by Terracciano.
That turned out to be a turning point as the home side went in one up and in confident mood.

Two more goals were added soon after the break, from striker Massimo Coda and a close range conversion by Michele Franco, that sealed the win.

It had been a bad night for Brescia who also had a strong shout for handball in the area turned down later on.

For Salernitana it was a welcome three points in their battle to remain in Serie B.

23rd January  Frosinone 0 Atalanta 0  Serie A   7,564 (c. 200 away)

The next day I took the metro back to the central station and went via Rome onto the town of Frosinone, some 75 km from the capital.

Frosinone didn’t seem like a town in which you might linger too long compared to so many others in Italy.
However I did stop at a pleasant cafe/bar on the way to the stadium where you could watch the excellent live Serie B show on Sky Calcio.

Up the road the small Stadio Matusa staged this goalless draw - a game that will not live long in the memory of those that witnessed it.

We saw an overhead kick go wide and two big chances, one for each side.
Dionisi spurned the one for Frosinone by screwing his effort wide and the tricky Argentinian Alejandro Gomez clipped the side netting when in a good position for the visitors.

Experienced striker German Denis appeared later for Atalanta but he failed to influence the outcome which looked likely some time before the final whistle.
Overall it was a useful point for relegation threatened Frosinone but probably an opportunity missed for Atalanta.

Afterwards your correspondent applied the ‘when in (near) Rome’ principle and settled for an excellent pizza and some vino rosso.

24th January  Perugia 0 Pescara 4  Serie B  9,373 (c. 500 away)

Up early I took the train back to Rome then onto Foligno.
Where I had plenty of time to stroll around the historic centre with its narrow streets, palazzo and cathedral.

Some coffee and pastry later I was on the train, through Assisi to Perugia.

The Stadio Renato Curi sees good crowds and on this very chilly evening in Umbria there was enthusiastic support from the home ultras and also from the large group from Pescara.

But only one set of fans could enjoy the result as the young visiting side eventually dominated the game.
Led by the excellent Ahmad Benali, who was well supported in mdfield by Lucas Torreira and Valerio Verre, Pescara controlled possession.

On 26 minutes they took the lead when a left wing cross caused panic in the home defence and the ball just went over the line off Marco Rossi for an own goal.

With Rodrigo Taddei and co. struggling to get to grips with the Pescara passing regime the visitors went in one up at the break.

Although Perugia started the second half by looking sharper they would eventually be well beaten.

Two easy finishes, both involving striker Gianluca Lapadula, came on 66 and 70 minutes to put the outcome beyond the home side.
Benali was able to enjoy scoring the third and he was also part of the move that capped off a superb night for Pescara.

That clincher was an excellently worked breakaway goal that culminated in Gianluca Caprari scoring right footed to seal the victory.

Despite all this the home ultras maintained their support although there were rumblings from the main stand.

While for the Pescara fans it would be a celebratory trip home and surely the strong possibility, on this evidence, of a return to Serie A.

I rushed to a nearby restaurant to warm up and enjoy some tempura and more vino.

The next day I returned to the UK via Rome Fiumicino.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Spain January 2016

 Two matches in the Canary Islands, one on Gran Canaria and one on Tenerife.

Wacky Wakaso.

13th January 2016  Las Palmas 3 Eibar 2  Copa del Rey   13,588

Gran Canaria is the largest of the Canary Islands and it plays host to Spanish top level team Las Palmas.

One might wonder how things could have developed here in the Atlantic some 100 km off the coast of Africa.
Perhaps if the Mauritanians had still been in control would these ‘Fortunate’ islands, be the attraction they have become ?

But the Portuguese, Christopher Columbus and later the Spanish made their mark and they are now a popular winter holiday destination.
Some of the populace made their way, on a cool evening, to the spacious Estadio Gran Canaria to see LP complete a 6-4 aggregate Cup win against tiny Eibar.

The first leg had seen two Eibar players dismissed and Las Palmas come back to win and have the advantage for this second edition.

The match began slowly before sparking into life when Brazilian Willian produced two great strikes, the second hitting the bar.

Then we had a moment of farce as Eibar goalie Irureta became stranded outside his area and when you have multi-ball employed he was clearly in trouble after Wakaso gathered a ball and took a quick throw-in.
That resulted in a melee near goal and defender Junca, under pressure, diverted the ball into his own net.

So Las Palmas, who had pressed for most of the half, went in a goal up.

Eibar had offered little in attack but that soon changed after the interval.
Firstly a free kick was glanced in by Ekiza (although he could have been offside ?) before Sergi Enrich had space and time to prod in a second straight after.

Within eight minutes of the restart the visitors were ahead on the night and level on aggregate.
But it didn’t stay that way for long.

Wakaso Mubarak is a local hero and he provided the cross for Momo to make it 2-2 and restore the home teams’ overall advantage.
The Ghanaian is clearly admired for his infectious enthusiasm and relentless effort despite the odd misstep. Chants went up whenever he excelled.

We then had a lull and period of consolidation by LP before they secured the win when a long high left wing cross was mishandled by the hapless Irureta allowing captain David Garcia any easy finish.

So the Islanders progressed to the last eight of the Spanish Cup where they will meet Gary Neville’s Valencia.

Post game I strolled round to get the local bus back to my hotel near the port area.

Nearby you could sit outside and enjoy a nightcap which you could do back home but frostbite might ensue.

The next day I was up early to get the ferry, taking some 2.5 hours,  across to another of the islands - Tenerife.

Where the locals were joined by a few thousands day trippers from the cruise liners docked in the harbour.
They soon made their way up past the Plaza Espana to the Calle del Castillo, as did your correspondent.
Further on is the Rambla de Santa Cruz and the very pleasant Parque Garcia Sanabria.

The cafe next the park makes a fine location for ‘chilling’ and admiring the plants and trees.

Later on a visit to the Casa de Colon might be in order.
It was once occupied by Christopher Columbus who stopped off (for a Macdonalds’ ?)
during one his voyages.
The house is now a fine museum that highlights the strategic position of these islands and their interesting place in history.

Athletic woe.

16th January  Tenerife 2 Bilbao Athletic 0  Segunda   8,333

Back to the football..
Walk along the tree-lined Rambla and you get to the Estadio Heliodoro Rodriguez Lopez, the two-tier home of the local side.

Tenerife are just below halfway in the second division whilst the Bilbao ‘B’ team are bottom and without an away victory.

The initial stages were all about Honduran striker Anthony Lozano and in particular his heading ability.
With Tenerife doing most of the pressing he was given a great chance to score but fluffed the first opportunity.
However he redeemed himself on 25 minutes, rising highest to nod over the poorly positioned away goalie.

The clincher came just before the break when left back Saul delivered a driven cross that was diverted into his own net by Yeray Alvarez.

Athletic themselves had shown limited threats although a couple of corners did cause the home side some concern.

In the second half the visitors had much more play as the home side relied on breakaways but the result never really looked in doubt.

And the Athletic cause was certainly not helped when defender Gil was dismissed for holding back sub. Nano as he broke away.
That meant some more visitors’ heads dropped.

Overall you might assess this ‘B’ team, maybe like many others, as having the method and many of the skills but lacking that concentration and consistency of top squads.

Anyway the local fans strolled home happy and I enjoyed a fine meal of hake followed by pork, washed down with some vino tinto in a nice taberna on the Rambla.

The next day I took the bus, about an hour down the coast, to the South airport for the four hour flight home to Gatwick.