There is a bit of an underlying rumbling passing through el Benito Villamarín at the minute and for once it’s firmly towards the positive end of the spectrum. Since that awful December and January run, February and March are proving to be almost diametrically opposite.
After 12 consecutive games without a win Betis are now:
- 6 games unbeaten (3 wins and 3 draws)
- Scoring goals (!) – that’s 10 goals in the last 5 games compared to 16 goals in 23 games!
- Scored 3 goals in a single la liga match which they haven’t done for almost two years
- Playing decent football which the fans are responding to
- 10 goals in 5 games – did I mention that?
Last Sunday Betis overcame a relegation-threatened Granada side by 2-0. It wasn’t entirely as comfortable as it sounds with the first goal only coming in the 84th minute thanks to a header by Alfred N’Diaye from a corner. It was deserved however. Granada had the better start to the game and looked the more likely early on, but Betis, who were in pink and white stripes for ‘El Día de la Mujer Bética’, grew into it and started to create a few chances towards the end of the first half, going forward well which was appreciated by the fans. The second half followed as the first half had ended with Betis providing the impetus and looking much more likely to break the deadlock, although Adán did have to make a phenomenal save to keep it 0-0.
Betis had to play the majority of the second half with 10 men after Vargas received two LUDICROUS yellow cards. The first one was for taking a freekick too early as the referee was sorting out the Granada wall. Yes bring the play back if Vargas asked for a wall but I don’t think I’ve ever seen that been given as a yellow card. The second was for jumping up and catching Rochina in the back with his knee. A nothing challenge. The referring in Spain is atrocious and really needs to be addressed and improved.
After N’Diaye’s goal, Rubén Castro killed off any chance of a late equaliser when he tucked away a freekick after the goalkeeper, Andrés, was judged to have handled the ball outside the area. Granada had used all three subs so Biraghi popped the gloves on with his first job being to pick the ball out of the back of the net.
The last few weeks have been a vast improvement and Juan Merino has played a very large part in that. He’s got players motivated and organised and has made a couple of cracking on-loan signings (Musonda and Montoya). He’s also got potentially vital players influencing, such as Juan Vargas from left back who has chipped in with a few thunderbolt goals and has been bombing on down the wing, which has earned him a recall to the Peru national team. Other players who made an incredibly shaky start to their Betis careers (I’m talking about you Germán Pezzella) now look fairly assured and he’s even scored two very nice goals.
Next Up: Athletic Bilbao – Sunday
Next game will be tough away to Athletic Bilbao; the new San Mamés is a place where Betis have yet to have a positive result (only been two times mind). Athletic are in decent form though having won their last three games rather comfortably, including a tricky away trip to Valencia and a dogged Deportivo side. A player they will have to stop is one they know well: Beñat. The little midfield wizard is pulling the strings for Athletic so Merino will have to put a plan in place to stop him and his side-kick up top in Aritz Aduriz, who although at the age of 35, really should have a call up for the Spanish squad.