The 1 – 0 win away at Malaga was priceless

Seville 3 Elche 1
Unlike several sweating competitors, Elche’s survival for another year in La Liga fortunately didn’t rest on the result of this match. The hard work and necessary results had been done previously with several late, key achievements, which meant the Franjiverdes had just enough points (40) to look down on those lesser mortals, and dream of next year… still in the big league of Spain, current European and Global champions in World Cup year.

The Elche team was half-full of untried players and reserves, and all subs were used. Iberra put the home side into the lead on the quarter hour, and it stayed like that into the second half until Jairo made it 2 – 0 on the hour.

Iberra got his second 11 minutes later to leave the Illicitanos nowhere, but Boakye scored in injury time to make the final score more respectable. Mighty Seville had won the Europa Cup on Wednesday and finished fifth in La Liga, so Elche’s defeat was predictable. The magic 40 points safety margin had been achieved with the season-saving goalless draw at home to mighty Barcelona the previous week.

In the end the final positions were, in reverse order, Real Betis (25 points), Valladolid (36 points) and Osasuna (39 points), all three went down to league 2A – the one Elche spent 26 years trying to get out of. But last weekend Granada (41 points), and Almeria (40 points) could have gone down if their final results had gone wrong. Elche finished in 16th place, only Granada above them of the fellow strugglers. If the Barcelona result was key, the 1 – 0 win away at Malaga the previous week was priceless, those three points virtually guaranteeing La Liga football next year.

For much of the season there was little cause for alarm: Elche were never in the top half of the table, usually hovering just below half-way. But as the pressure rose with time running out the bottom teams started winning, and the Franjiverdes went through a depressing run of goalless draws, with penalties missed as the deadly spot-kick ace Albacar was out injured for several months.

From being relatively comfortable Elche began to slide slowly but surely downwards, fingernails bitten as the worst scenario, relegated straight back down again to misery and local ridicule began to look a possibility.

The perennial problem, again seen all through this tumultuous season has been scoring goals. Elche have managed a miserable 30 in 38 games, the lowest in the league – even rock-bottom Betis managed 36.

With that statistic alone it’s a wonder Elche managed to stay up, but one of the club’s strengths traditionally has been their defence and here was the key to the Franjiverdes’ survival. 50 goals conceded was infinitely superior to all fellow-strugglers, and you have to go up to 11th-placed Malaga, and ironically their great ex-Elche goalkeeper Willy Caballero to better the Illicitanos’ defence that conceded 46 – one of which was newbie Rodriguez’s bullet in that priceless 1 – 0 win.

Do the midfield not do enough? Ruben Perez, Javi Marquez, Carlos ‘The Rock’ Sanchez and more are reasonable players, but don’t score goals themselves or supply enough chances for the struggling strikers. Boakye is the best bet upfront, local boy Christian Herrera tries hard, and last year’s leading scorer Coro has been very disappointing.

The close season will be very interesting to see who stays, who goes and who comes to the Martinez Valero – but right now everyone is smiling in the City of Palms – Elche stayed up!
Mucho, mucho Elche!

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/43743/

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