Hola! Friday is Basque day, so it’s time for another visit to Bilbao. After a bit of tinkering with various formations, our form so far this season has been patchy to say the least, but we’re 4th in league and managed to string some good results together last week, including a 7-1 walloping of Real Madrid in the Copa Del Rey, so hopefully that’ll give us something to build on…
We begin this week with a visit from our bogey team, Oviedo. I stick with the MW2 formation that seemed promising last week. It’s a dour affair, and although we have 4/11 shots on target, we can’t score and it’s a stalemate, which the board obviously aren’t happy with. It’s frustrating that we beat them so convincingly in the cup not so long ago but can’t beat them in the league, grrr.
At the end of last week’s episode I made a £925k offer for Juventus’ Didier Deschamps, but unfortunately he rejects it and stays loyal to the old lady for the time being, I will be back to try and tempt him again though.
Back to the Copa Del Rey, and the 2nd leg against Real Madrid. Amazingly we’re 7-1 up from the 1st leg, so this will take some throwing away. We lead on 5 minutes, and an Alkorta own goal makes it 1-1 at half time. Real pile on the pressure in the 2nd half, but we hold on for a 1-1 draw and an 8-2 aggregate win. The board are apparently very pleased with the win, I should think so!
The prize for our efforts is a semi final against Betis, with Valencia, who conquered Barcelona facing Mallorca in the other tie.
Espanyol are our final opposition of the 1st half of the season. There are no early goals for a change and it’s the hosts who lead on 39 minutes, but we claw one back through Luis Perez and it’s all-square at half time. Goals are traded on 67 with Etxebe instantly nullifying Esnaider’s strike, and Laslandes fires home the winner 6 minutes later.
Lovely stuff, just as he was starting to score again as well…
Time to start the return legs now, and it’s a basque derby with Real Sociedad, who we thrashed 4-0 at home. We lose Perez after half an hour through injury, and after a goalless 1st half the hosts take the lead 3 minutes after the restart, and get 2 more in the next half an hour before Ezquerro nets a late consolation for us in what the board quite rightly say is a poor result.
Oh well, at least it’s weeks and not months…
Extremadura are next, and they haven’t done great since Rafa left. Due to the injuries, Loinaz gets a rare start up front. Guerrero gives us a quick-fire lead and Loinaz grabs a brace just shy of the half hour mark. Our keeper, Etxeberria is injured just before half time, and Baines is on for his debut. Ezquerro scores his 2nd goal in as many games to make it 4 and the visitors get the final goal of the game but it’s too little too late for them.
The board are pleased with my performance and in other news, John Fashanu is sacked by Altrincham. At least he can now focus on hosting Gladiators and maybe come to work for me as a coach and turn my players into gladiators so I don’t have to keep seeing things like this…
Anyway while Fash mulls over my offer, it’s time to face Valladolid. Loinaz is loving being back in the side, and his equaliser to Patri’s early strike proves to be a catalyst as Ezquerro, Guerrero and Laslandes all add to the hosts’ woes before they score a late consolation to make it 4-2 at the final whistle.
There are a couple more casualties to add to the ward as skipper Rafa Alkorta, and Gaizka Garitano somehow both suffer back strains in training and are ruled out for a couple of weeks.
Logroñes frustrated us earlier in the season, holding us to a 1-1 draw. Histilloles gets us off to the perfect start with an early goal and it’s the only one of the 1st half. We continue threatening the visitors’ goal, but they equalise on the hour. It’s a frustrating final 30 minutes, but after 8/18 shots on target we finally make a breakthrough as Guerrero scores a goal that’s not a penalty for a change.
We end this week with a trip to Salamanca, who humiliated us last time and beat us 2-0 in our own back yard, so revenge is firmly on the agenda. Agustín Ruiz was the hero last time and he strikes again. Ezquerro spares our blushes with a late equaliser but the board aren’t happy and it seems that Salamanca may have taken over from Real Oviedo as our bogey team.
So after a bit of a wobble, we’ve steadied the ship a bit with 4 wins, a loss and a draw from our last 6 games. We’ve cut the gap between ourselves and Valencia to 2 points, but Barca and Real are out of sight so the best we can probably hope for is 3rd place.
Next week we have some massive games, as we face both Barcelona and Real Madrid in the league, Rosenborg in the Cup Winners’ Cup quarter finals, and Real Betis in the Copa Del Rey semi finals, so be sure not to miss that one. Adios for now!