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Elche 1 Barcelona ‘B’ 1
So near, yet so far – Elche led for half this exciting match, willed on by a bumper crowd of 33,318 who turned up to see the Illicitanos promoted back to La Liga, after a gap of over thirty years. In midfield…



Rising star Gerard Deulofeu is outflanked by Aaron

Elche 1 Barcelona ‘B’ 1
So near, yet so far – Elche led for half this exciting match, willed on by a bumper crowd of 33,318 who turned up to see the Illicitanos promoted back to La Liga, after a gap of over thirty years. In midfield captain Generelo was preferred to Rivera, probably courtesy of his (rare) goal last week in the unexpected 3 -2 win at Villarrreal, and upfront Carles Gil was similarly retained at the expense of Angel.

The mighty Fort Knox-type defence which has ensured Elche stay top this sensational season was all together against an unpredictable Barcelona ‘B’ team in eighth place, with some real young stars like Deulofeu, you never know which team will turn up on the day.

Honours were even until on 24 minutes Coro was put through by Albacar but blatantly hauled down inside the area. Deadly deadball specialist Edu Albacar stepped up for the all-important penalty. I cannot remember him missing one, and the left back duly obliged, hard and low as usual well out of the goalie’s reach: that was Albacar’s eighth goal of a wonderful season.

Elche 1 – 0, in the driving seat – and on their way to glory? Well, not exactly, the Illicitanos stayed in command until half-time, but afterwards Barca began to press and Elche conceded possession too many times. Bookings abounded from both sides as the Catalan side looked increasingly confident, and with 25 minutes left Elche were badly caught square.

Normally reliable Suarez brought down Deulofeu right on the edge of the area, and was sent off as last man fouling, but to everyone’s relief as we held our breath the ref gave the free kick just outside the box. It was cracked over off the Berlin wall and the resultant corner cleared: now all Elche had to do was hang on with ten men to win.

Xumetra was sensibly substituted for sound deputy full back FFlano, and holding on to the ball would have then been a good idea that Elche somehow seemed to have a problem with.

As we began to count down the minutes towards that tantalising automatic promotion, we got to eleven, the 79th minute as Barcelona surged forward again. Espinosa pushed the ball forward to the edge of the Franjiverdes’ area, and making up for his earlier booking exchanged a 1 – 2 with Patric who had his back to goal.

The sidefooted drive swept into despairing Manu Herrera’s top corner for the equaliser, and with three players on yellow cards Elche’s future suddenly looked cloudy again as Barca went all out for the win. Off came Coro for Angel – could he do the same as last week and score the winner from the substitutes bench. Well, he tried, as did Peligrin who saw his header from a corner sail past the post as ten men Elche had their moments in the final stages.

Rivera came on for Carles Gil to stiffen up a panicky and exhausted midfield, and in one heart-stopping moment Deulofeu slid his low cross across Elche’s goal with no-one there, and after four sweaty moments of injury time the whistle went for a very hard-fought draw, and point Elche towards stardom – but it could have been better, although final statistics showed Elche had only 39% of possession versus 61& for Barca – hardly championship-winning statistics at home.

But it was another valuable point: now four games to go, but I’m still not claiming promotion till it’s certain. Next week the Illicitanos are away to Almeria – can they do a ‘Villarreal’ there to clinch it? Hope so…
Mucho Elche!

Photos Kevin Rendall

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