Sports

Joaquín guides Real Betis to 1-0 win over Sevilla for first La Liga win

“It had to be Joaquín [Sánchez Rodríguez],” Estadio Deportivo’s cover ran on the morning of Sept. 3.

In his first game of the season, Joaquín scored the goal of the destiny against Sevilla FC to secure the first El Gran Derbi victory this term.

On the night of Sept. 2, Estadio Benito Villamarín was probably the loudest place in Europe.

Real Betis Balompié, S.A.D., seeking the first win in the 2018-2019 La Liga season after a loss and a draw, finally got three points in one of the fiercest derbies in the continent.

After head coach Quique Setién and Sports Vice Chairman Lorenzo Serra Ferrer — who is in his third stint at the club, albeit in a different position — were installed in May 2017, the club has undergone a stunning transformation.

Setién, disappointed in being undermined by the board of the Unión Deportiva Las Palmas, S.A.D., came in to manage the team into playing his style of football — possessive of the ball, flexible on the wings and half-spaces and seeking to create and express spaces more.

The Betis manager, very much a technician with a craving for expressionist soccer in his playing days, is known for being uncompromising, even stubborn, in instituting this attractive style regardless of who the opponent is, hence some of the polarizing score lines from the 2017-2018 season: 4-0, 3-6, 0-5, 5-3 and 3-5.

This season, Betis came off a weak start, even though the team dominated ball possession in the first two games against Levante Unión Deportiva, S.A.D., and Deportivo Alavés, S.A.D., 77 percent and 67 percent respectively.

Los Verdiblancos had to win this game to generate momentum in what should be a tough season, managing to win games in three competitions, including the Europa League.

When Sergio Canales, newly signed from Real Sociedad de Fútbol, S.A.D., put the ball in the net after a crisp, sumptuous through-ball from Andrés Guardado, the stadium burst into roaring ecstasy.

Only the goal did not count because Canales was a fraction of a body offside.

The crowd wearing white and green jeered at the referee at the same volume with which they celebrated.

In the beginning, it was Betis that came out on top and created a few chances where they put the ball close to the goal, but the final moves of the team members were underwhelming. The combination of Sergi Gómez and Guilherme Arana seemed to be out of sync.

However, with Éver Banega and Roque Mesa managing and pulling the strings in front of the backline, Sevilla threatened to score. Marc Bartra, the last man of Real Betis in front of the goalkeeper, intervened at least twice to keep the ball from getting near the goal; goalkeeper Pau López had to stretch fully to parry away Franco Vázquez’s shot to the bottom corner that originated from chaos in the box.

The controversial point of the game came when López, after gathering the ball, ran in the box, trying to distribute it quickly and seemingly jumped on Mesa. Mesa, in a confusing call, received the second yellow and got the marching order.

“I didn’t want to come here and talk about this, but it conditioned the game so much,” Pablo Machín, the Sevilla head coach, said.

“We had reached that point in the game, were in our best moment, still in it, and we were preparing fresh players — that was our plan but we couldn’t apply it.”

There was a valid point to Machín’s complaint as Mercado almost scored without much pressure from Betis’ defense and Navas’ cross-looking shot tipped the bar.

Betis kept the ball like the previous games but didn’t make any clear-cut chances out of the
possession.

Joaquín was only active on the pitch for a little more than five minutes before he scored, and when he did, he became the oldest player to register a goal in a Seville Derby at the age of 37 years.

The goal was a swinging cross from Aïssa Mandi at the edge of the box. Joaquín sprinted behind the cluster of players in the middle to the receiving end of the cross and headed the ball in.

The stadium was sent into raptures. Joaquin, taking his shirt off, ran in front of the crowd as players piled on the beloved veteran.

In the additional time, Joaquín had the chance to extend the score line: Lopez punted the ball forward and Mercado’s clearance bounced off Arnaldo Sanabria’s head.

The ball then went to the feet of Joaquín, who still had the burst of pace to venture clear of the defenders in an effort to get an angle to shoot. He put it wide.

But it didn’t matter in the end. When the final whistle blew, Setién, who had been animated throughout the game, hugged Joaquín and a few other staff members in a state of delirium.

September 13, 2018

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Wen Xi Chen


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