Javi Márquez does well under pressure

Yes, Elche moved another step nearer safety to stay in Spain’s top echelon next season, but it could have been all three points – whether it should have been is another matter.

Betis are bottom, but have enjoyed a mini-revival of late with a draw and a win to give them some hope of survival. The Franjiverdes were sixteenth before Sunday, but with last week’s defeat at Espanyol and others around them winning Elche are only just above the danger area.

On a bright, sunny Sunday lunchtime an excellent crowd of 29,125 turned out in the City of Palms, including a couple of hundred lively Andalucians who had made the long journey from Sevills, Spain’s 4th largest city.

For once everyone was swathed in green and white as these are also Betis’ colours. The home team were nearly at full strength with the exception of injured left-back and captain Albacar. No place either for Carlos ‘The Rock’ Sanchez in midfield as Ruben Perez, Javi Marquez, Coro and Carles Gil were preferred, with the twin strike force of Manu del Moral and Christian Herrera up front.

The main part of the match revolved around midfield where neither side could claim superiority over the other, but in the main the visitors gave as good as they got. On the quarter-hour Perez let go a rasper which warned the Betis goalkeeper Adan’s hands, and in reply the winger Cedric was causing problems for Elche.

The Franjiverdes had the ball in the net after half-an-hour but it was rightly ruled offside. First Javi Marquez, then Botia were booked as Elche frustrations began to show, but it stayed goalless at half time: Elche shaded it, but not convincingly.

The second half continued where it had left off, but the visitors began to lose their composure and soon passed Elche’s two bookings. On the hour Manu del Moral limped off injured to be replaced by Elche’s new boy Rodriguez – and instantly things started to happen for Elche as the new young striker immediately blazed the ball over the bar.

The following minute Coro went clear through, but delayed and fumbled until it was too late.
With 20 minutes left on came Boakye for the disappointing Christian, but straightaway Betis had their best chance as Manu Herrera pulled off a great save from a Castro shot that looked as though it was going in.

Coro and Rodriguez both had chances as the minutes ticked away, and as a last throw of the dice Fidel came on for Carles Gil, and going into injury time Elche pressure was intense. From a corner the ball fell to the luckless Coro, still in wretched form who went down theatrically in the box.

Although nearly everyone at the mighty Martinez Valero was impressed it was a penalty, the referee was not, and finally booked the protesting Coro as everyone realised that was the end of the match – and it remained a goalless draw.

The point actually suited Elche much more than Betis as the Franjiverdes moved up to 13th place with 30 points, one clear of Malaga and Osasuna. That means four precious points divide Elche from third-bottom Valladolid, so the goalless draw wasn’t too bad after all.

Next Saturday Elche travel to old enemies Granada, one point and one place above them. Two seasons ago Granada beat Elche only on away goals in the finals of the second division play-offs in a very bad-tempered affair: what an Elche win that would be…

Mucho Elche!


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