Betfred Sport

La Liga: A highly entertaining derby in Seville

The weekend saw the return of a Spanish football institution: the Seville derby.

Real Betis’ relegation from La Liga in 2009 meant that football fans in Andalusia’s capital were deprived of a derby for two seasons, a wait which should have been over on the first day of the season, with newly promoted Betis set to host their rivals in the opening weekend.

But due to a players strike over a number of players not being paid, the first round of fixtures were postponed until January.

But on Saturday night, Real Betis finally hosted Seville at the packed Benito Villamarín stadium. Fans queued for hours to get tickets on the day of the game.

This was a match so important that the league’s organisers made sure neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid played their games on the same day.

While el clásico is undoubtedly the biggest game in Spain, the Seville derby could easily lay claim to being the country’s greatest inter-city rivalry.

While both the Catalan (Barcelona v Espanyol) and Madrid (Real Madrid vs Atlético Madrid) derbies suffer from one team being significantly more successful than the other, the Seville derby pits together two similarly sized teams with similarly sized trophy cabinets.

Like the Madrid derby, this is a rivalry crosses class divides. Betis fans are traditionally working class while Seville fans come from the middle and upper classes.

This makes for a vitriolic atmosphere when the sides meet, such as a match in 2002 when a Seville fan ran onto the pitch to attack the Betis goalkeeper Toni Prats, or in 2007, when Betis fans burned Seville flags during a game and hit manager Juande Ramos on the head with a bottle, causing the match to be abandoned.

An end-to-end match

Thankfully the game on the weekend, which ended in a 1-1 draw, will be remembered for what happened on the pitch rather than off it. The first half was possibly the best 45 minutes of football seen all season in La Liga. Both teams showed full commitment to attacking football and to entertaining their fans. No sooner would one team be attacking than they would be defending.

Sky Sports commentator Gerry Armstrong said it was “like a five-a-side game”, and he was not exaggerating. Betis were marginally more adventurous than their opponents, but this left them exposed at the back when they lost possession, and Seville were more than happy to exploit this, making for a brilliant game.

A sublime free-kick by Beñat gave the hosts the lead but a Negredo header pulled things level before half-time. Although there were no further goals it was still a great contest, but Betis will be ruing not taking advantage in the final twenty minutes, when Seville were reduced to 10 men.

Big wins for the Big Two

Real Madrid are still seven points clear of Barcelona in the title race, a fact easily forgotten after all the criticism José Mourinho and his team have received after losing yet again to Barcelona in the Copa del Rey last Wednesday. Barcelona strolled to a 4-1 victory at Malaga, with Messi bagging his fifth hattrick of the season.

Although Madrid also won 4-1, their victory against Athletic Bilbao was not as straight forward. The big news before the game was Mourinho’s decision to leave Pepe out of his squad. The defender had been vilified by in the usually Madrid-friendly press for his stamp on Messi’s hand in the game with Barcelona, but had been defended by his manager.

Bilbao manager Marcelo ‘El Loco’ Bielsa promised that his players would come to the Bernabéu to attack and they took the lead when Fernando Llorente scored after 13 minutes. A goal by Marcelo brought things level but Llorente squandered a great opportunity to reinstate the visitors’ lead before half-time. Madrid got the perfect start to the second half when Kaka was clumsily brought down by Ander Iturraspe in the area. Cristiano Ronaldo smashed home the penalty and from then on there was only going to be one winner. Another Ronaldo penalty and a late goal from José Callejón wrapped up the game for Madrid and provided a welcome distraction from an earlier report in Marca which spoke of an apparent rift between Mourinho, Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas.

Elsewhere in Spain

In San Sebastian, Diego Simeone’s good start to life as Atlético Madrid manager continued as his side got their first away win of the season in some style, beating Real Sociedad 4-0. Rademel Falcao scored his second hattrick for Atleti, taking his tally to 14 goals in 16 games. This would be an impressive record in any other league, but it is only the fourth best goalscoring average in La Liga, behind Ronaldo, Messi and Gonzalo Higuaín.

In Pamplona, an uneventful game between Valencia and Osasuna only came to life in the last five minutes. Roberto Soldado looked to have won the points for Valencia when he headed home on 86 minutes, but Lolo equalised for the hosts in added time, immediately after David Albelda had been sent off. Valencia remain third, but Espanyol move up to fifth after beating Granada 3-0.

In Monday night’s game, Villarreal lifted themselves out of the relegation zone with a 3-0 win against Sporting Gijón, their first victory in six games.

La Liga Week 1 Results (Postponed from opening weekend of the season)

Real Betis 1-1 Seville

Espanyol 3-0 Granada

Levante 0-0 Real Zaragoza

Málaga 0-4 Barcelona

Real Madrid 4-1 Athletic Bilbao

Osasuna 1-1 Valencia

Racing Santander 1-2 Getafe

Rayo Vallecano 0-1 Real Mallorca

Real Sociedad 1-4 Atlético Madrid

Villarreal 3-0 Sporting Gijón

By Richard Martin

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