The match began on Sunday and by the time Rubén Castro scored the equaliser as the match came to a close, it was Monday! That’s Spain’s crazy match timings for you – you can thank the LFP.
Betis’ first taste of La Liga action ended in a 1-1 draw against a well-oiled Villarreal team. It wasn’t the perfect start, but it will do. More importantly, Betis did not look out of place at all against the team who finished 6th last season. In fact, Betis dominated the game in terms of possession, yet they never truly threatened to score until Dani Ceballos came on and created a bit of impetus.
The players came out to a vociferous noise, with the crowd clearly excited to be back where they belong. Pepe Mel’s men started off with lots of energy and enthusiasm, however, the energy they emitted seemed to be more of a nervous kind and at times you could see their eagerness to create an impression resulting in simple mistakes.
It would have done us well to have a nice, calm influencing figure in midfield to dictate play and simmer things down a little. One of two players could have done this: one of them was sitting on the bench, Señor Ceballos, and the other was injured, Rafa Van der Vaart. It will be a good sight to see the Dutchman pulling the strings in centre-mid.
Overall, it was a good performance from Betis. They could have won it near the end when they were piling the pressure on, but I think a draw was a fair result. Villarreal looked dangerous on the break, swinging up the field like a set of launched bananas.
Roberto Soldado, a familiar name to all, opened the scoring in the 31st minute. Betis cleared a corner, to then see the ball hoofed in the area. As the green and white defence moved out, they forget about what might happen if an onside Villarreal player controlled it. Soldado plucked the ball down and had around 14 minutes worth of space to slot the ball past Adán.
The main threat Betis posed seemed to be down the right hand side, with right back Cristiano Piccini bombing up and down. He wasn’t perfect and can be highly infuriating at times with his final ball, but he was definitely trying and with a fair degree of success, causing plenty of trouble for Villarreal left back, Jaume Costa. Piccini was given the Most Valuable Player award come the end of the match.
It was one of Piccini’s speculative shots that led to the goal. He’d had a few where you think, ‘why are you shooting from there?!?’, but on this occasion, it worked. As he lined up a 35 yard volley in the 85th minute, I thought ‘here we go’. However, it was an absolute bullet which was parried by goalkeeper Areola, who made a double save before seasoned goal-poacher, Rubén Castro, forced it in. Queue madness in the stands. Betis pushed for a winner, but it eventually played out in a draw.
Making his debut as centre-back was Germán Pezzella, who fair to say, did not look too solid. I think we need to be a little patient and let him bed in as he seemed shaky and a little nervous. On a few occasions he miscued a pass, got caught out of position or mis-controlled the ball. Against a more clinical opposition, it may have cost us.
Betis did look more dangerous with Dani Ceballos on the field, but he continues to divide opinion with his unwillingness to sign a contract. He obviously has a very bright future ahead of him, but I don’t think he is being advised very well. He is 19 and it would do him well to get a La Liga season under his belt before he looks at a more attractive more. The crowd showed restraint but they won’t for long and will not have little patience for someone who, as they will see it, doesn’t want to play for los verdiblancos.
Up next for Betis is the not so easy feat of facing Real Madrid away, who were held to a draw by fellow La Liga new boys, Sporting Gijón, who finished below Betis last season. They could give Betis a bit of faith, but equally, it will make Madrid want to exact revenge.
It looks like Digard will be available for selection, but Ceballos may be staying in Seville for the journey.
In his latest Instragram post he has said, “My decision is made, I only want to return to home”. The prodigal son is on his way back!