3 games in Spain including a visit to Eibar and Sporting Gijon.
This was a trip by car starting and finishing in Bilbao characterised by persistent rain and moderate temperatures but with some interesting football.
Big up Bigas.
26th February Eibar 0 Las Palmas 1 Primera League 5,112
Eibar, some 50km from Bilbao, has been put the map by the exploits of its football team as they climbed to the top league in Spain.
Reprieved from relegation last season they were at the dizzy heights of 7th prior to this match.
And there was a definite feeling pride about their club in this Basque town with plenty of flags hanging from the apartments and a buzz to the local bars.
Plus a cosy atmosphere at the compact stadium.
However on the pitch it was not a great night for the home side.
After the initial sparring it became clear that Ghanaian Wakaso would cause problems for Eibar down the left, and in particular full back Capa who ended being booked and probably with ‘twisted blood’.
Wakaso’s crosses and shots, especially in the first period, often set up chances.
Eventually the Las Palmas threats would result in the winner, at a strategic moment just before half time, when Bigas headed home unchallenged from a corner.
The lead was deserved since Eibar had created few decent chances.
The second half was mostly controlled by the home side but their most likely way back was via two penalty claims, the second of which seemed very plausible.
But they were both denied much the crowds disgust.
So the visitors from the Canaries came away with a useful three points to elevate them well clear of the demotion places.
I stayed locally before journeying along the coast via Bilbao and Santander to Gijon.
Ascent of Asensio.
27th February Sporting Gijon 2 Espanyol 4 Primera League 22,555 (c. 50 away)
Sporting certainly have a contrasting ground to Eibar it being an historic three-tiered stadium, resplendent in red & white, with a capacity of 30,000.
And it can generate some noise, in this case often aimed at the referee.
Who presumably had some ‘previous’ according the home fans.
The game itself was eminently watchable with some standout performances and featuring at least one future star.
It was no doubt especially enjoyable for the neutrals present, including your correspondent, and the small group of away fans to the left middle of one end.
The first serious action signalled what was to follow as Burgui eluded two defenders and tested Cuellar in the home goal.
Soon after home striker Carlos Castro broke away and his shot clipped the bar.
The opener then came from a cross pushed out by the Espanyol goalie that Castro drove back in.
But Espanyol applied pressure and Burgui set off on another dribble, across the Sporting back line, before shooting home right footed for a fine equaliser.
The teams went in level at 1-1.
The very lively second half commenced with a couple of errors, through lost possession, that resulted in two quick goals for the visitors.
Firstly a far post cross found Gerard Moreno then the same man set off on a run that culminated in a nicely directed effort past Cuellar for 1-3.
Groans from the home crowd.
But on 62 minutes Carlos Castro got his second via a fairly straightforward header and for a while it seemed Sporting would retrieve the situation.
They came agonisingly close when a Sanabria shot hit the bar from close in and a few minutes later another effort clipped the same bar.
Then we had the moment that confirmed the presence of a future star as Marco Asensio skipped past two defenders along the left wing and his intended cross was diverted in by Luis Hernandez for an o.g.
Asensio, a left footer playing mostly on the right but with licence to roam, is clearly a talent.
He is aother medium-sized midfielder in the traditional Spanish mould.
Curiously Sporting’s possible future star, Alen Halilovic, who came on as a sub. also wears no.25. And he is also a pacy, left footer playing on the right (but with longer hair)
Time will tell how their careers develop but certainly two names to watch.
Meanwhile the game ended badly for Sporting with Nacho Cases being dismissed for an assault on the elusive Asensio.
Espanyol then played out the final minutes by keeping possession.
They should certainly avoid relegation while Sporting might have more of a problem.
I travelled from Gijon back via the same route then onto the edge of the Basque country and to Miranda de Ebro.
28th February Mirandes 1 Tenerife 2 Segunda division 3,347 (c. 20 away)
The town is a mix of industry, partly rundown areas and some trendy looking bars/restaurants in the centre.
Nearby is the cosy Anduva stadium.
Mirandes have had a promising season having reached the quarter finals of the Copa del Rey and also challenging for a playoff position.
But on this early Sunday evening they came up short against a Tenerife side looking solid at the back and offering plenty going forward.
After some initial home possession a long ball reached Nano and with the home goalie misjudging his pace he nicely guided the ball home for the opener, that was after just 7 minutes.
Though Mirandes had more of the ball there always looked to be a chance Tenerife would be dangerous when attacking.
The home side had the ball but couldn’t create much in the final third.
However they did finally go close at the end of the first half, but Dani produced a good block.
The Mirandes coach then changed the forward line after the interval but it was the visitors who went further ahead when a superb lob from Suso set Nano clear and he rounded Raul to run in an excellent second goal.
As expected the home side applied more pressure and they would get one back when a penalty was awarded for a push in the area and Eguaras dispatched it easily.
But it would not be enough although goalie Raul did venture up for the final corner, all to no avail.
So Tenerife would ease their relegation worries and the home side would have work to do to make the playoffs.
So for me three matches and three away victories.
I stayed locally and watched Barca beat Sevilla whilst having dinner before delivering the hire car back to Bilbao airport the next morning.