As every week in ELXIIDEAL, we review the most important events of the LaLiga EA Sports match day in our section: LaLiga Overtime. The fourth match day has given the spectator unexpected heroes, homecomings or crazy minutes that have lifted all Spanish football fans out of their seats.
The hero that did everything wrong:
Almería and Celta met at the Power Horse Stadium with the obligation to win after taking just one point from a possible nine. Rafa Benítez’s side started brightly and went in at the break with a 2-0 lead. Goals from Unai Núñez and Strand Larsen gave Vigo a deserved lead.
The Madrid coach’s 5-2-3 formation dried up Vicente Moreno’s men, but the break changed everything. The introduction of Sergio Arribas, along with Ramazzani’s playfulness (he had eight dribbles in the match), allowed Almería to draw with goals from Akieme and the Real Madrid youth player, who continues on course for his 10-goal target.
It was the 70th minute and Rafa Benítez moved the bench and introduced Williot Swedberg. The game was destined for a draw, but Manu Sanchez’s cross was met by the 19-year-old Swedish playmaker. Williot’s first LaLiga goal of the season gave Celta their first win in their centenary season.
The final whistle came and the Celta account captured the celebrations of three friends: Swedberg, Larsen and De La Torre. The funny thing was the words of the American: “He loses 15 balls and scores a goal. How?!”. And good old Luca De La Torre was right, because Swedberg’s game was, despite the goal, disastrous.
The data shows that his 15 touches weren’t the most effective. On almost half of the occasions (six), the Swede lost the ball and was seen to have a much lower pace and intensity than the rest. But, like in a good superhero movie, the protagonist must overcome adversity and, even if everything goes wrong, save his team at the end of the day. In short, we must agree with De La Torre, because it is inexplicable that Williot was Celta’s saviour.
A crazy stint in Mendizorroza:
It is always said that a 90-minute match has several encounters within it. Dominance from one side, dominance from the other, moments of a low block or suffocating pressure are some of those ‘mini-matches’ that we have within each clash.
On this fourth matchday, we experienced a five-minute micro-match with a script worthy of an Oscar. The protagonists were Mamardashvili and Kike García, and the setting was Mendizorroza. It all started in the third minute with a lapse in concentration by Diakhaby, usual when he is positioned at centre-back, which the tireless Luis Rioja took advantage of, causing the Georgian goalkeeper to be brought down.
The referee, Pablo González Fuertes, pointed to the spot. Facing each other, like Stephen McNally and James Stewart in the western ‘Winchester 73’, were Mamardashvili and Kike García. The gunman from Montilla de Palancar took his shot to his left, but didn’t deceive the Valencia goalkeeper who saved the penalty.
The game was still going on, but the referee put his hand to his ear and ordered a retake. The reason was that Diego López had entered the area moments before the kick. And there they were again, same place, same opponents, same result. Mamardashvili was a giant again and once again won the duel with Kike García.
As if this early psychosis wasn’t enough, life had a redemption in store for Kike García. Just a minute after missing his second penalty, the former Eibar and Osasuna striker made just enough of a challenge on Cenk from Rubén Duarte’s cross, and the Turkish centre-back slotted the ball into his own net.
There would be no more goals at Mendizorroza, thanks in part to a colossal Antonio Sivera in front of Diego López, and Luis García’s Alavés would celebrate their second win of the season. A triumph cemented during a gale of insanity that shook the Babazorros’ stadium and, in the end, smiled on the home side.
Home, sweet home:
It is always said that you have to go home to be happy. And football is a perfect example that a lot of players need the shelter of home to awaken their game. There have been numerous cases over the years and Cristian Portugués is the latest of them.
The winger from Murcia left Girona in the summer of 2019 for Real Sociedad. In Donostia they enjoyed Portu’s play, who scored 15 goals in LaLiga in his first two seasons. After the third season, the player from Beniel took a back seat, which caused him to change the Basque Country for Madrid last season, more specifically to Getafe.
In Madrid, Portu didn’t show a similar performance. The defensive character of the team from the south of Madrid didn’t match the explosiveness of the player from Murcia. After a season there, Getafe coach José Bordalás had other preferred options ahead of the Valencia youth player, which led to Portu’s departure.
The team that came to his rescue was an old acquaintance, Girona. There, the winger spent three seasons (one in LaLiga Hypermotion and two in LaLiga EASports), where he scored 28 goals, 20 of them in the Spanish top flight, and was one of the heroes of the promotion.
This weekend against Las Palmas, Girona were blocked in attack. Míchel’s team was not able to turn the game in their favour and needed a revulsive. The Madrid coach gave Portu, who was returning to Montilivi, the chance to play, and he responded to his coach’s confidence.
It was the 88th minute of the game and a cross from Yan Couto was finished off by Portu to make it 1-0. Girona would take the game and achieve their third win in four games and go into the international break in second place with 10 points. A superb comeback for Portu who returned home in style.
Barça’s metronome: De Jong:
The metronome is a device used to indicate the tempo or pulse of musical compositions. And football is similar to music. All the players are part of a score that must be played carefully so that not even the slightest note is missed.
This means that all teams have a metronome in their ranks, a figure who sets the rhythm of the game. In Barça’s case, the one in charge of keeping the tempo of the team has been Sergio Busquets. The departure of the captain this summer, the central axis of the Barça midfield for the last decade, has left this gaping hole empty.
The man charged with inheriting Busi’s role has been Frenkie De Jong. The Dutchman, in a position more of an inside player than a pivot, is Xavi Hernandez’s team leader, the player through whom all the Catalan team’s play passes. The ‘Oranje’ international has shown enough personality to fill a void that is almost impossible to fill.
In a place as complicated as El Sadar, the Dutchman was the best player for the Culés. The former Ajax man was Barcelona’s most active player against Osasuna, and this is demonstrated by his 135 touches in the match, the most on the ball in the whole game. He also had an excellent 93% pass rate (107/115) and hit a ball against the post.
To round off his performance, De Jong put a measured ball behind the back of the Pampelonian defence that Lewandowski picked up. That move ended in a penalty by Catena on the Polish striker, who would be in charge of converting the final 1-2.
At the end of the match, LaLiga announced that Frenkie De Jong had been chosen as the MVP of the match. Another great performance from Frenkie who, after being on the exit ramp last season, has been Barça’s big name at the start of the season. A metronome that works and keeps the rhythm of the blaugrana melody.
Translated by Marcos Rodríguez.
Main image: Edit Pablo Benítez.