The ‘real’ Betis we want to see

Este sí es mi Betis” – Reyes Aguilar on Twitter. This, yes, is my Betis.

A 1-1 draw at home to Celta de Vigo may not sound like much, but it signalled for a lot of people the return of the Betis we love to watch. Not the scoreline, but the manner of the play and performance from the players on the pitch.

Especially that of midfield general: Petros.

He had a sublime game, one which was not missed by the Twitterati, in fact his name was trending in Spain his performance was that good. Petros signed from Corinthians in the summer and has so far had 6.5/10 kind of season; on Saturday he must have been a solid 9.

His statistics show how important he is becoming for Pepe Mel: often topping the stats for balls recovered. pass percentage complete and kilometres covered. He’s not just a defensive-minded DM though, he looks forward and gets the team moving.

Respected journalist, Mateo González, said: “Provoca la roja, asiste en el gol, recupera infinidad de balones, refleja el espíritu del equipo y acierta en el pase. Completísimo.” He provoked the red, assisted the goal, recuperated an infinity of balls, reflected the spirit of the team and got his passing right. Totally complete.

Celta are no push over. According to the league table, they are the 4th best team in Spain at the minute, only surpassed by the usual three front-runners. Large swathes of the game were under Betis control, 60% of possession tells this story. Yet it was Celta who took the lead against the run of play in the first half thanks to a neat, instinctive finish from Bongonda. This Celta goal came seconds after Alfred N’Diaye was put clean through by Rubén Castro, but could not apply the finish. A lesson there in taking your chances.

With Petros playing a sterling role in the centre keeping the likes of the deadly Nolito, Orellana and Iago Aspas largely trouble free, it should have been left to Dani Ceballos, Joaquín, Rubén Castro and Cejudo to create the chances. Los verdiblancos did have chances, 27 in fact (including those blocked) compared to Celta’s five. One of Betis’ closer attempts was a wonderful freekick from Joaquín that crashed against the post. This came after Petros had robbed the ball yet again high up the pitch and was pulled back, resulting in Jonny getting his marching orders.

The goal came in the 82nd minute from an unlikely pairing: Petros to Molina. Yes, Jorge Molina got his first goal of the season after being slid through by the Brazilian, in one of his 92% of completed passes! It was a moment of justice for the big forward who has endured a very tough season, featuring little and being criticised a lot. This shows he can still play a key part this season.

The Return of Vadillo

vadillo real betisVadillo technically returned to Pepe Mel’s plans mid-week when he featured against Sporting in the Copa del Rey. He scored a wonderful goal then and it looks like he could play a key part in this season’s campaign.

He came off the bench in the second half last night and put in another good performance. He feels very much like a new signing! Vadillo was very nearly sold this summer to Rayo Vallecano, in what would have been an absolute steel for the madrileños. I’ve been a huge fan of Vadillo and have written so here many times. He’s got a raw talent that is not seen that often and I think given an injury-free run, he can be crucial to Betis. He has been so unlucky with injuries in his short career: two cruciate knee catastrophes by the time he was 20 years old!

Looking forward to seeing him feature a lot more in the coming weeks/months, as is perhaps his biggest fan Linus Lövgren!

The only thing that was missing last night from Betis was a win, but if they continue to play like that, there will be plenty of them to celebrate.

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Betis back in La Liga!

Estamos en primera (Picture from Francisco Molinero's twitter account)

Estamos en primera (Picture from Francisco Molinero’s twitter account)

Real Betis are officially a La Liga team. 393 days after they were relegated; they are back!

A satisfying 3-0 victory over Alcorcón on Sunday confirmed just this. Yesterday morning, I wrote on BlogBetis that if one of three scenarios occur, then promotion will be certified. The first two didn’t happen as Girona beat Llagostera and Sporting did the same to Tenerife. So Betis’ destiny was in their own hands, which I think was the scenario everybody was hoping for. Even if they didn’t win they would have had two more attempts.

Almost 50,000 cram into el Benito Villamarín

Almost 50,000 cram into el Benito Villamarín

However, Pepe Mel and his merry men wanted to do this in style, in el Benito Villamarín and in front of 48,462 loyal almas – souls – of Betis.  That is an incredible number for a second division Spanish football match against a team a lot people haven’t even heard of. More than Manchester City. More than Liverpool. More than Chelsea.

Last week I said that this upcoming week could be season-defining for Betis, with three games inside a week. It has been season-defining and it has highlighted how Pepe Mel has re-invigorated, re-energised and re-motivated this side. Los verdiblancos have won all three games: scoring 12 goals in the process and conceding three. They are back to their entertaining, exciting selves, something which has been entirely lost for over a year.

It was fitting that once again Rubén Castro and Jorge Molina helped Betis to strut over the line with aplomb. Castro bagged two more goals on Sunday to take his total to 32 goals for the season! His first goal was yet another sublime finish, sprinting through before flicking the ball over the goalkeepers head with consummate ease. His second a penalty. Molina rounded things off with a tap in, his 19th of the campaign. Queue mass celebrations in the stadium.

'Mucha emoción'

‘Mucha emoción’

As the final whistle went, there were hugs galore on the bench and hysteria in the stands. As the players and staff did the rounds on the pitch, Pepe Mel looked evidently emotional. What a moment this must have been for him; the perfect return.

The huge banner below is what Betisweb kept under raps until kick off. I mentioned in my last post that they had something secretive up their sleeve and this was it. A homage to one of the best front line combinations in Spanish football – Rubén Castro and Jorge Molina.

Betisweb homage to RC24 and Molina (from Marca.com)

Betisweb homage to RC24 and Molina (from Marca.com)

I don’t think anyone, bar a few extremely optimistic (or extremely naïve) people, would have envisioned nor predicted this ending at the start of the season.

‘I am in my home, where I want to be’ – Pepe Mel

Towards the end of Novemeber, Betis had won 6, drawn 3 and lost 5. Under the uninspiring Julio Velázquez, the outlook was pretty dismal. A few changes in the boardroom and a couple of inspired decisions later and Pepe Mel had returned to his rightful home. In his 21 league games, Betis have lost just once! Under Pepe Mel, Molina has scored 17 of his 19 goals. Under Pepe Mel came a renewed sense of worth and appetite, which has ultimately led to this fantastic achievement. The revival did all start under the caretaker manager, Juan Merino, before Mel took charge. Merino’s role in all of this is integral.

‘It has been the most complicated season of my career’ – Jorge Molina

And that is saying something. Things are just never easy or straightforward at Betis, as proved with this season’s shenanigans. This is the 12th time Betis have been promoted to La Liga – the most in the history of Spanish football. So, to say there are ups and downs would be an understatement.

The season isn’t over yet and there are two more games to play. The next challenge for Pepe Mel and co. is to become champions of the league.

Celebrating in the changing room

Celebrating in the changing room

http://videosdelbetis.com/videos/video-la-grada-verdiblanca-celebra-el-ascenso-verdiblanco/

The video above is from the fantastic videosdelbetis.com who produce some great stuff.

A Return to La Liga Promised Land?

Betis will be a La Liga team by the end of the day, if one of three scenarios occur:

  • If Girona lose to Llagostera
  • If Sporting Gijón don’t win against Tenerife
  • If Betis win against Alcorcón

Both Girona and Sporting play earlier this afternoon, so by the time Betis grace el Villamarín later on, and results have gone their way, they could already be in their natural place. If not then it is Betis’ own hands where they are likely to be playing in front of 50,000 La Liga hungry Béticos.

Players celebrate in El Sardinero after Thursday's win

Players celebrate in El Sardinero after Thursday’s win

On Thursday evening, Betis helped their ascension cause by placing a foot in La Primera with a 4-2 away win at Racing Santander. Two more goals from the unstoppable Rubén Castro, another from Jorge Molina and one from Bruno ensured that Pepe Mel’s men would return from northern Spain with all three vital points.

Two more goals from The Legend

Betisweb banner: Two more goals from The Legend

Racing took the lead early on, but Betis were quickly back on track with a solid Bruno header from a corner. Betis were 2-1 up by half time after a sublime goal from Rubén Castro. He cleverly combined with Kadir to then curl the ball into the top corner, ricocheting in off the post. The third came from Castro again as he lobbed the keeper from the edge of the area. The victory was assured by Jorge Molina smashed the goal in the top corner from outside the area with a suspected toe-bunge, whatever way he connected it was certainly a golazo. David Concha grabbed one back for Racing, but the game ended 4-2.

Pepe Mel made a few rotational changes on Thursday to keep his starting line-up fresh. He is likely to change it up again this Sunday with a likely line-up of:

Adán; Cejudo, Bruno, Jordi, Varela; Xavi Torres, N’Diaye, Ceballos, Portillo; Rubén Castro and Molina. 

The team from Madrid, Alcorcón, haven’t got much to play for. They have secured their place in La Segunda for next season and could still technically make the playoffs, but it is unlikely. Betis will be playing in front of a raucous crowd who will be in fiesta mode.

Today could be the day Betis have been wanting for more than a year. If so, they will put the whole debacle of mis-management and the bear pit of La Segunda behind them.

Kick off is 7pm GMT (8pm in Spain). If you’re that way Twitter inclined, be sure to use the hashtag #yosoyverdiblanco – an initiative started by the club to get everyone in party mood. Also, look out for the huge surprise banner that Betisweb have prepared, which will be in similar vein to the Rubén Castro Jugador de Leyenda banner just above.

Viva el Betis!

Match Preview: Español – Betis (1600 GMT)

Here we go. Two games in and it is already looking like a pretty important game for Betis. 

The first two games have returned fruitless. Despite often out-playing the opposition and having countless chances, we have got 0 points from a possible 6. But that’s happened and Betis have picked themselves up and scored six goals on Thursday; albeit against much lesser opposition it is incredibly important to begin finding the back of the net.

This season is different from any other in recent memory. Betis are fighting on several fronts: at home and abroad. The squad need to adapt and learn how to play two/three games in the space of the week and still hit the performances of last season. Another 0-pointer tonight will see Betis join the very poor Osasuna at the foot of the table with no wins from three. As Pepe Mel put it, “To not score any points is synonymous with problems.”

Team News

Both managers, Mel and Javier Aguirre, approach the game from a similar viewpoint. There teams are designed to play with intensity and pressure on the opposition. 

The news from the Betis quarters isn’t great for any reading Béticos. Paulao is out injured as is Perquis. So it looks like Amaya and Jordi Figueras will step in in central defence to thwart the threat of the likes of Pizzi, Stuani, Simao and Sergio García. Rubén Castro is also out injured. Again. His sciatic nerve troubling him meaning he doesn’t even travel with the squad to provide his super-sub service. Thus, Molina will be starting up top on his own. In the troubled goalkeeping position, this time a chance will be given to Anderson, who played against Real Madrid but not against Celta.

At least the midfield is fairly stable. Matilla and Nosa will position themselves in holding midfield and more advanced will be Cedrick, a likely start for the starlet that is Vadillo and Joan Verdú, returning to his former club. 

The 18 Mel has to choose from are as follows: Andersen, Guille Sara, Chica, Juanfran, Nacho, Amaya, Jordi Figueras, Lolo Reyes, Xavi Torres, Matilla, Nosa, Salva Sevilla, Verdú, Cedrick, Juan Carlos, Vadillo, Molina & Braian Rodríguez.

Again there is no room for Chuli or Nono. 

Last season both sides won by 1-0 when they played each other at home. I remember this fixture last season Betis were also missing Rubén Castro, and they did miss him. However, there are only 4 survivors from that game who are likely to start today’s game. Lots of change. Let’s hope there will be a change in the scoreline.

Thursday beckons as Real Madrid given a scare

The highly impressive Cedrick in action against Madrid.

The highly impressive Cedrick in action against Madrid.

What a game Sunday’s encounter was. Madrid ended up sneaking the win with new signing Isco providing the winner just 5 minutes before the end. Even though the new 2013/14 la liga season was just over 24 hours old, it was an important performance from Betis as it gave a lot of disgruntled la liga fans hope, enjoyment and even a bit of excitement.

The preseason just passed has not been particularly positive for any other team apart from Real Madrid and Barcelona. Almost every other la liga side has been forced to sell not just their mediocre players, but their best ones. The league was set to become even more of a two horse race (which it still probably will be). The pessimistic souls that were this way inclined, were given the nod when the usually fairly sturdy defence of Levante were absolutely spanked 7-0 at the Nou Camp – it was 6-0 at half time.

Then came along the ever-blooming Betis. During parts of the game they were running Madrid slightly ragged. The much-quoted €1.20 (€1 + 20 cents VAT) signing from Numancia, Cedrick, was giving the bleached locks of Sergio Ramos, the runaround. Betis took the lead through Jorge Molina on the 14th minute, teed up by Cedrick. Madrid levelled 10 minutes later through Benzema. Betis could have, and should have, been leading at half time with lots of chances going spare.

The second half was a bit of a different story with Madrid creating lots of chances but the Betis defence did not buckle. Chica, Paulao, Perquis and Nacho performed greatly as a unit and Matilla looks like he has certainly plugged the hole in the middle of the defence, playing in the pivot role. Unfortunately the defence could quite hold on long enough and Isco made Betis play for some sloppy marking in the centre of the box to nod a cross into the top corner. 2-1 to Madrid it ended but they knew they had certainly been in a game and boss Carlo Ancelotti had certainly been put through the mill during his first proper game in charge.

It would have been a fantastic result to return to Seville with 1 point and unbelievable to return with all 3, but in the end it was none. To be honest it doesn’t matter too much as no one expected any points before the game. What Betis need to do now is to put that valient performance, the encourage and positive aspects into fruition in the next game, which is arguably much more important.

On Thursday Betis take on FK Jablonec in the first leg of the qualifier for the Europa League. Should Betis win the tie over two legs, they will be entered into the group stages of the Europa League. That would be a remarkable feat for a team that were suffering terrible just a few years ago with crippling management and not even playing in the top flight.

The top flight they are certainly in now though. Betis showed that there are not just two sides in la liga. The squad from last year is much changed but that spirit that Pepe Mel has instilled into his side is clearly evident. Let’s hope that the performance on Sunday was a sign of things to come.

Viva el Betis, manquepierda!