Estadio Gran Canaria, Las Palmas – Las Palmas’ time in La Liga is comparable to that of it’s home. The redevelopment of Gran Canaria’s biggest stadium has often epitomised the team that plays within it. Promotion to La Liga in the summer of 2015 brought about a period of renovation to get it into shape for life in Primera. It took months for it to take shape but about midway through the season, it finally started to look decent. Brighter, more stylish, and definitely more character.
For the months that followed, it fitted perfectly into La Liga life – involved in some dramatic and entertaining matches, the expected immediate return to Segunda never developed. The atmosphere around the club grew – the side from Gran Canaria became everyone’s second team. Homegrown players formed the basis of the side and, along with the guidance of Quique Setien, they became the league’s entertainers. Stylish football was always the fashion in Gran Canaria.
However, halfway through the second season, it started to unravel. Setien became frustrated with the board and agreed that he’d leave in the summer. A blow to both club and players. The impact of the local player’s dwindled; the star purchases such as Kevin Prince Boateng sought pastures new. The results dipped as a consequence.
This season has so far been a disaster; Manolo Marquez started the season as manager since him there’s been Pako, then Paquito, and now Paco. None of them have been able to address the problems in front of goal at both ends of the pitch. The positivity has dissipated. The new-to-the-league bounce has well and truly worn off. Relegation has started to look like it is a case of when rather than if. The horrific defeat at Girona last weekend did little to reassure Paco Jemez and the fans of UDLP.
However, on Saturday night there were signs of life. A glimmer of hope arose. Valencia were in town. It was the evening that the atmosphere returned to the Estadio Gran Canaria – and even half-decent football made an appearance too. It looked like it was going to be a routine Valencia win when Santi Mina took advantage of typical Las Palmas slack defending by heading past Leandro Chichizola from close range within the first five minutes.
Valencia dominated for the opening 20 minutes – Santi Mina had a shot saved and Rodrigo also went close – Marcelino, now free of his neck-brace following his altercation with a wild boar, ordered his team to concentrate and not get complacent against the league’s bottom side. However, with 20 minutes on the clock – and against the run of play – Las Palmas found themselves level. Jonathan Calleri ran into the visitor’s penalty area and brought down a neat cross for Jonathan Viera to stab past Neto into the goal.
The match then became dogged – akin to the matches at Getafe and Eibar, where Valencia struggled. Tackles and fouls were more prominent than free-flowing football. Although Las Palmas did begin to create more and more chances in the second-half. Both Jonathans – Calleri and Viera – linked up well and caused the Valencia defence issues. Paco Jemez – as stylish as ever with his customary full Windsor tie and pocket-handkerchief – stalked the touchline, observing a performance of marked contrast to that in Catalonia last week.
Valencia’s frustration was noticeable; and shortly after the break, it got worse for Los Che. Gabriel Paulista was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area – a decision which sent the Brazilian into a rapture that earned him a yellow card for the handball and another for dissent. The penalty followed and Calleri smoothly tucked the ball past Neto to send the home supporters wild. The Estadio Gran Canaria – so dull and down in recent months – was now full of colour and life.
Paco Jemez remained as placid as he had been in the opening minutes but there is no doubt that he was impressed with how his side had dealt with Valencia’s pressure and comeback, even though Marcelino’s side were far from their best. On came Goncalo Guedes, Simone Zaza, and new-signing Luciano Vietto but none were able to change the visitor’s fortunes. To add insult to injury, Ruben Vezo was harshly dismissed for a second booking late on and meant that Los Che finished the match with nine players.
“It was a result that possibly everyone didn’t expect,” Jemez said following his first win back at Las Palmas. But it was certainly one that was accepted. Las Palmas, for so much of this season, have been devoid of quality and points but Saturday evening may well be a turning point. It was a more resolute and rugged performance than expected from Las Palmas who have all too often been far too open and expansive for a team with relegation seriously on their minds. “The victory helps us to gain confidence,” said Jemez but it was also a night tinged with sadness for the Las Palmas manager; his father Lucas – a renowned flamenco singer – had passed away just hours earlier.
It is still a tough job for Las Palmas to survive for a fourth-consecutive season in La Liga but the victory against Valencia did see them leap over Malaga – whom they face in two matchdays time in a massive match. The fans left the Estadio Gran Canaria on Saturday night with hope in their hearts. Maybe, just maybe it will be home to La Liga football again next season?
Los Otros Puntos
- “According to you we are very bad, however, according to me we are doing fine,” was Diego Simeone’s response to questioning journalists. In reality, they are somewhere in the middle. Atletico Madrid moved on from Wednesday’s surrender of a one-goal lead against Sevilla in the Copa by surrendering another one-goal lead against Girona in the league. The points were shared at the Metropolitano – like they had been in the opening match of the season in Girona. Los rojiblancos were on top for much of the first-half – Angel Correa had an early attempt saved by Yassine Bono and the hosts had a possible penalty waved away by referee Senor Bengotxea. But it was Antoine Griezmann’s first goal in six La Liga matches that gave the hosts the lead – Diego Costa bravely endured a clattering from goalkeeper Bono to provide a headed-assist for Griezmann who slotted the ball into the net. Yannick Carrasco missed the chance to make it two before the visitors pounced. A scramble in the area led to Koke’s desperate hoof that would have cleared the roof were it given any direction, and instead, it landed for Bernardo to play a delightful ball in that Cristian Portu finished calmly. Simeone had every reason to be tetchy post-match.
- Five second-half goals – three of which were scored in the space of 10 minutes – edged Barcelona ever closer to an 11th La Liga title in 20 seasons. Real Betis stood firm for the first-half and even created a few half chances of their own but class and quality came to the fore in the second-half. It was a former Sevilla player in Ivan Rakitic who opened la Blaugrana’s scoring – a series of passes led to Luis Suarez receiving the ball in midfield and he played a fine pass down the left to the onrushing Rakitic who calmly swept a shot past Antonio Adan. Braces from Leo Messi and Suarez put the match to bed with Messi’s 2nd being the pick of the bunch.
- Cristiano Ronaldo made his way to the sideline – mirror in hand – with blood covering his face. He resembled a man who had just been in battle. However, he hadn’t. In fact, it had pretty much been a stroll in the park for him and his team-mates. A 7-1 victory for Real Madrid against a Deportivo side struggling for form. The visitors took the lead but doubles from Gareth Bale, Ronaldo, and Nacho soon ensured Los Blancos collected the three points. Crisis? What crisis?
- Javi Calleja’s silent assassins strike again. Villarreal quietly go about their business and with relative success. They were in 4th place – for one night at least – following their victory against Levante.
- A game of penalties at Anoeta saw Iago Aspas score one for Celta Vigo, Willian Jose hit one that hard at the crossbar that it travelled all the way back into the Real Sociedad half, and another could have been awarded for a tackle in la Real’s penalty area.
- Former Malaga and Osasuna manager Javi Gracia has taken up the reins at Watford – he deserves his chance in the Premier League following his work in Spain and beyond and, having had the pleasure of his company, I’m sure he’ll make a good go of it.
Getafe 2–2 Athletic Bilbao
Espanyol 0–3 Sevilla
Atletico Madrid 1–1 Girona
Villarreal 2–1 Levante
Las Palmas 2–1 Valencia
Alaves 2–2 Leganes
Real Madrid 7–1 Deportivo
Real Sociedad 1–2 Celta Vigo
Real Betis 0–5 Barcelona
Eibar – Malaga to be played on Monday
El Jugador de la Semana: Gareth Bale (Real Madrid)
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