Elche pay their respects to their former player the late Tito Vilanova

Elche 1 Levante 1

A win would have virtually secured staying in La Liga for Elche next season. But this year’s biggest problem is the Franjiverdes scoring goals, having the dubious distinction of being the league’s lowest scorers: a pathetic 28 in 35 games.

Even bottom club Betis have scored 29. Fortunately the defence has acquitted itself reasonably well, only conceding a competitive 47, lower than most around them to keep the Illicitanos just above the relegation zone. Mid-table Levante, with nothing really to play for represented Elche’s best chance of vital home points in the tough final run in.

In the City of Palms on a sunny Friday evening a wildly-enthusiastic 28,405 fans, almost all locals turned out to urge their green and white men on. Everyone was given special flags and programs on entry and one supporters group had made a huge home-made banner adorning half the Prefencia stand denoting the club’s unity. So – all Elche had to do was win, and everyone could go home happy – but this is football…

Still no Lomban and Albacar in defence meant Peligrin and this time Cisma standing in after Sapuranu’s red card last week. No Ruben Perez in midfield, left out in favour of Carlos Sanchez and Javi Marquez. For a change striker Boakye started, hero of the late winner two weeks ago in injury time against rivals Getafe, supported upfront by the lively newcomer Rodriguez. For Levante two old Elche favourites started, ‘Zoomi’ Xumetra and popular goalscorer Angel.

Elche started well with Peligrin heading over unmarked from a Suarez free kick. It wasn’t all one-way, Herrera pushed a long shot past his post as the visitors had their moments, but half-time came goalless with Elche firmly in control.

Only four minutes into the second half and somehow Javi Marquez missed an open goal. Boakye then appeared to be tripped in the box, but the ref said no, as both sides sustained bookings. On the hour at last… the desired, long-awaited and very welcome home goal came. From the wide left Rodriguez found Boakye in the area with his back to goal, but well marked.

The Ghananian striker who has notched several important goals this season, swivelled, dummied and cracked in his shot to wild celebrations and warm applause all round the ectstatic Martinez Valero. The happy carnival atmosphere went on for a full 12 minutes with the fully-expectant prospect that the Franjiverdes would go on and score more…

Following a needlessly-conceded corner, to almost total shocked silence a chapter of accidents in the Elche defence saw Angel cruelly scoring against his old club at the second attempt, everyone in green and white standing still. Rodriguez then had three chances, all gloriously wasted with shots nearer to the corner flag then the goal: he was then substituted for Fidel, then Boakye by Christian Herrera, and finally Rivera for Javi Marquez. Despite the anxious crowd urging their heroes on the score finally stayed at 1 – 1, Elche really throwing two points away with careless defending.

Below Elche both Getafe and Almeria pulled off great wins, although bitter rivals Granada above them lost. If Betis are down, which two teams go with them? Elche are 15th with 36 points. From Granada in 14th with 37 points down to Valladolid (two games in hand) in 19th with 32 points only five points separate the six teams.

With three games left Elche are away to mid-table Malaga next week, then home to mighty-but-troubled Barcelona with the final match away to high-flying Sevilla. Oooh…

Mucho Elche!


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