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ELCHE’S CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON ENDS IN TRIUMPH!

Elche 3 Guadalajara 1
The jubilant crowd invaded the pitch at the end of Elche’s final match of the season, where the Illicitanos came back from being a goal down to score three second half goals, two from players about to leave the club, to se…

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Xumetra, scored in his final game for Elche

Elche 3 Guadalajara 1
The jubilant crowd invaded the pitch at the end of Elche’s final match of the season, where the Illicitanos came back from being a goal down to score three second half goals, two from players about to leave the club, to send everyone away with happy memories of a fantastic season.

Elche led league 2A from start to finish and are deservedly promoted back to La Liga as champions after a gap of 24 years out of the big time. Question: should mastermind coach Fran Escriba play all his first-choice stars who got the Illicitanos promoted, or continue to give all the reserves and leavers a go, as the result didn’t really matter?

Well, a bit of both really, and you have to say Escriba’s hardly put a foot wrong this super season. Diego Rivas continued in goal, with my player of the season Etxeita back from injury to partner young Hector Verdes in central defence, with sound substitute full backs Flano and Mantecon. In midfield crowd favourite Xumetra started his last game for Elche, supplemented across the park by Generelo, top scorer Coro, Carles Gil and Fidel, with Linares starting up front, also playing his last game for the Franjiverdes.

What is it about visitors that haven’t read the script? Guadalajara – from Castile La Mancha, not Mexico started well, and on the quarter hour audaciously went ahead. A seemingly-innocent cross from the left was nodded down wide of Rivas just inside the post to subdue the happy crowd – well, for a while – until Linares went down in the box amid loud home appeals for a penalty, ending with booking Elche’s striker for diving: that was the only yellow card, incidentally in a match played in the best of spirits.

Xumetra then raced to the line and pulled his cross straight onto Coro’s head, the leading scorer’s accurately steered effort heading for the corner but somehow hooked away off the line with the goalkeeper beaten. 0 – 1 it stayed at half-time; oh dear, was this going to be one of ‘those’ days?

Whatever was said in Elche’s dressing room during the interval, it worked. Almost immediately after the re-start Mantecon and Flano worked the ball up the right, and the low cross was turned in first time by Xumetra to great joy all round, the winger signing-off minutes later to genuine gratitude. ‘Zoomi’, off now to Levante was replaced by another possibly-leaving-old-favourite Palanca.

Club captain Generelo was injured: hmm… and went off to be subbed by new local boy Sergi. Carles Gil suddenly surged forward down the middle to find Linares at the edge of the box, who turned and slammed the ball into the corner to put the Illicitanos 2 -1 up. The striker who has had such savage luck with injuries, but always gives 110% then departed to another standing ovation.

The huge relief of now suddenly leading from losing was signalled all round by the Mexican wave, and when the welcome news that arch-rivals Hercules were losing the crowd’s joy was complete. All finished? No, not quite. After practically all season out injured, high-hoped-midfielder Javi Flores came on as sub and immediately stormed through to make it three with 15 minutes left, for everyone to really celebrate in style.

What a fabulously memorable, record season this has been. Villareal beat Almera 1 – 0, so the yellow submariners will go up automatically with Elche, the play-offs now between Almeria, Girona, Alcorcon and Las Palmas. Let’s make no mistake: the glory is all Elche’s this season – and how the Franjiverdes have deserved it…
Mucho Elche!

PHOTOS: KEVIN RENDALL

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/39345/

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