Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Spain November 2016

Three games in northern Spain.

I based myself in central Bilbao for this weekend trip to the Basque country.

That Condor moment.

19th November  Gernika 1 Athletic B 0  Segunda B  500 (c. 20 away)

Gernika/Guernica has a place in the hearts of all Basques and has become significant for many others around the world.
The local museum presents the history of the infamous bombing of the town by the Condor Legion in 1937, at the behest of the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War.

Themed as a Peace Museum it also highlights the work of many famous campaigners around the world.
Nearby is a Pablo Picasso bar and street, the artist’s memorable painting having served to sear the name of Gernika into many people’s memory.

Gernika was targeted because of its significance in the Basque culture and history and you can still see the remains of one the famous trees under which the locals assembled in times gone by.

Assembling for the football took place at the small Urbieta stadium, a fifteen minute stroll from the centre.
The ground comprises a main stand, old open terrace/seating and a Jai alai (pelota) court at one end.

On the pitch we saw a fairly contest with the ‘B’ team generally passing it around and the home side being more direct.
Gernika improved after the break and they hit the bar in the final five minutes.
It seemed that would be the nearest to a decider until we entered the closing minutes of added time when the home side were awarded a free kick just outside the area.

After the referee had sorted out the wall Larruzea drove a right footer into the top of the net.
Fans and players could celebrate.

I took the train, slightly slower than the bus but conveniently timed, back to Bilbao and spent the evening with some (Basque) tapas and vino while watching Cristiano Ronaldo strut his stuff for Real Madrid.

Morenoshank Redemption.

20th November  Deportivo Alaves 0 Espanyol 1  Primera  19,550 (c. 150 away)

Vitoria Gastiez can be reached by bus in under an hour and that was my route for this midday kickoff.
The city is renowned for its greenery and on this Sunday morning, in the rain, you could understand why the grass might grow.

Walkable from the bus station is the Mendizorrotza Stadium, and its not difficult to work out the local teams colours, the neat tiers being all resplendent in blue.

With a midday kickoff many fans arrived after the start and it took a while for the noise to get going in what became a nearly full stadium.

Perhaps not surprisingly with the two teams adjacent in mid-table it was likely to be an even contest.
Espanyol, in particular the ageless Jose Reyes, clipped the bar from a free kick in the first period and Alaves had a few half chances including a Deyverson disallowed effort.

The decider came from a Gerard Moreno header, converted from a corner on 81 minutes.
Seconds earlier the same player had a penalty saved by Pacheco after Alexis had handled.

The home side never really got close enough to respond and so it meant redemption for Moreno and three points to take back to Barcelona.

Then it was a return bus ride back to Bilbao, a break for more tapas and then a stroll to the San Mames.

Bilbo Baggins.

20th November  Athletic Bilbao 1 Villarreal 0 Primera  38,245 (c. 10 away)

Near the centre, atmospheric and a vision in red the new San Mames must be one of the better new builds.

On the pitch we watched a steady first half with limited opportunities possibly edged by the visitors.
The second period had a lot more action.

And it often featured striker Aritz Aduriz.
After seeing him contribute little at Wembley for Spain this time he became a lot more involved.
Headed chances and a breakaway opportunity featured before his shot inside the area on 67 minutes caused Asenjo to parry and Raul Garcia was on hand to score what turned into the winner.

Inaki Williams was another who played a part, his pace often creating chances, though he did contrive to hit the post after evading the goalie.

The Yellow Submarine brought some star substitutes, Pato (nice run and shot), Bakambu (missed half chance) and Jonathan Dos Santos, but to no avail.

Ultimately the Basques could enjoy the result against the highflying Villarreal.

While I joined the massed ranks on the walk back to the centre.

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