Matchday five kicked off with four mouthwatering fixtures. Group A saw Atletico Madrid take on Villarreal. Group B featured dicision 4 strugglers travelling to Bilbao, in group C, Sevilla hosted Sporting Lisbon, and in the group D clash, Malaga went to Espanyol.
As we have become accustomed to in this competition, there was action in all four fixtures. We will run through them now, starting in Madrid.
Group A – A. Madrid v Villarreal Att: 12,807
Pointless Villarreal of division 5 travelled to Madrid to face Atletico. The club from the basement were always the outsiders in a group alongside the two Madrid sides. Following their last game in this competition however, a 5 – 0 defeat to Real Madrid, Andrew Kelly’s side have been in fine form. After that defeat, they went into last night’s fixture having won their last 6 in all competitions. Atletico on the other hand, have only won once in their last 6. It was all set up then for a terrific encounter.
The visitors had the first opportunity after just 5 minutes, but Gerard Moreno’s effort went wide of the post.
A couple of other half chances went begging before the first big action of the game on 37 minutes. Alessandro Cerci was slipped in by Draxler and finished magnifficently. Unfortunately however, just as the Vincente Calderon was erupting, the linesman put his flag up. It was a tight call, and the home fans, players and officials were clearly unhappy, but the goal was chalked off.
If they were unhappy then, things got worse with the dismissal of Koke right on the stroke of half time. He was adjudged to have brought down Manu Trigueros, the only light relief being that Moreno put the resultant free kick well over the bar.
The second half was a relatively quiet affair. Nothing at all going on for 15 minutes, and then just a couple of half chances. That all changed on 74 however, when Sandro put the division 5 side ahead. The already Vincente Calderon became a scene of desolation. The home fans that had made the effort started to head for the exits.
1 – 0 to Villarreal is how it ended. To rub salt into the woun, Atletico’s defeat also handed the group A top spot to city rivals Real with a game to spare.
Group B – Athletic Club v Levante Att: 9,443
Both sides went into this game in very poor form. Levante boss Parfitt also electedto mix his side up somewhat. New signing Modou Barrow was given his debut, whilst Moses Odubajo and Angel Romero were given rare starts. Following good performances in the youth competition, there were also senior call up’s for Odisseas Vlachodimos in goal, Matt Miazga in defence, Hideki Ishige and the highly rated Bart Ramselaar in midfield, and striker Isaac Success.
The young goalkeeper was called into action within 6 minutes of his debut, doing well to keep out a Ferreira Carrasco effort. Ten minutes later though, class told as Carlos Bacca gave the home side the lead, prodding home from an Mbokani assist. The Bilbao strike pairing looked dangerous, and forced another fine save from Vlachodimos just on the half hour mark.
A couple of minutes later came the visitors first effort. Young Japanese midfielder Hideki Ishige getting off a stinging strike from an Angel Romero assist. Bravo saved well however, and that miss was to be rued just 60 seconds later. Bacca grabbed his second, with Carrasco this time credited with the assist.
With Levante 2 down at half time, Success & Ramselaar were withdrawn. First team regulars Diego Souza and Clinton N’Jie coming on as the replacements.
It mattered little to the home side however. Korkorin put his team 3 up on 47 minutes. As the half wore on, N’Jie had a couple of chances for the visitors. The attack at least looked a little more dangerouss with him in it. The dismissal of Odubajo for a couple of yellow cards twenty minutes apart didnt help however, and 6 minutes after he recieved his marching orders, Mbokani rounded out the evening, grabbing a well deserved goal for himself, and a 4th for Bilbao.
Group C – Sevilla v Sporting Att: 11,536
Two more out of form sides clashed in group C. The game was a goal fest however, and started with a bang as the visitors took a 4th minute lead courtesy of Adrien Silva.
On 41 minutes that lead was doubled, as Mane struck one into the top corner. Truthfully, the Portuguese side could have been 4 or 5 up by half time, but they were let down by poor finishing. Sevilla had offered nothing though, and were thankful to be on 0.
The story looked set to continue in the second half, with Gutierrez making it 3 – 0 just five minutes after the break.
Sporting continued to spurn opportunities, but Sevilla at least made a game of it in the second half. They missed a few chances of their own before Pareja pulled on back to make it 3 – 1 on 73 minutes. The game still looked beyond the Spaniards though, with their Portuguese opponents continuing to create, and spurn, opportunities.
There was to be a grandstand finish though, with Sevilla getting a second, again through Pareja, on 87. It was to little to late though, and the harsh truth is that anything other than an away win would have been an injustice. Houdini Smiff has plenty of positives to take from this game, whilst Jamie Alldridge must be scratching his head wondering how he will coax a Sevilla side bereft of confidence away from the foot of the division one table.
Group D – Espanyol v Malaga Att: 7,415
The smallest attendance of the night was for the group D clash. Those that missed it though, really did miss out.
Doug Earle and Greg Billington have both taken on difficult tasks, but both are sure to improve the fortunes of their respective sides, and will one day surely work at the sharp end of Top 100. If this game is anything to go by, the more often they face each other, the better.
There was more than one early goal last night, but none as early as the home sides opener in the first minute at the Estadi Cornella-El Prat. Doug Earles side were given the lead as young on loan Dutch sensation El Ghazi put Pavoletti in, and his strike dipped over Kameni and into the net.
Recent addition Nathan Redmond had a chance to make it 2 – 0 after just 4 minutes, but his shot went wide.
There was a second goal on 7 minutes however, but it was an equaliser rather than the home team getting further ahead. Nordin Amrabat’s free kick was struck to viciously for the keeper to get anywhere close to it.
As the half wore on, bith keepers made classy save after classy save. Tike was getting on though, and on 41 the referee awarded the visitors a free kick. That man Nordin Amrabat was again given the opportunity with a dead ball, and he didnt dissapoint. It was driven hard along the ground, and flew in off the upright with the keeper again not even close.
After 58, Amrabat went from goal scorer to goal provider. His pass let in Darder, and the strike had enough on it to beat the keeper and give Malaga some daylight with a 3 – 1 lead.
Earle decided he had seen enough. El Ghazi, Vossen and goal scorer Pavoletti were all withdrawn, and replaced by Ginczek, Coulibaly, and vetran Samuel Eto’o, who was earlier this week thought to have attracted a cheeky bid from Levante.
If that is true, and if Levante had anybody wacthing last night, they may be back with another offer. Within seconds of joining the action, the Cameroon hero set Borini up, and it was 3 – 2 and all to play for with half hour still left on the clock.
The game was there for whoever wanted it most, but on 78 Malaga were handed the opportunity to finally put it to bed. They were awarded a penalty, and the spot kick was expertly dispatched by Hemed. The keeper went the right way, but he was never even close to taking it.
5 minutes later though, and Eto’o had his second assist. This time he played in fellow substitute Coulibally to make it 4 – 3. Still seven minutes left, so could Earle’s side grab a point?
Unfortunately for them, no. The final few minutes were played out with Malaga keeping posession and running the clock down.
The result ensures that no matter what happens in the final week of group games, Malaga will be the only side progressing to the knock out stages with a 100% record.
There are just one more round of group games left before the knock out aspect of the competition starts. The final round of fixtures see’s Villarreal host Roy Keane’s Real Madrid in Group A. In Group B, Levante host the fearsome Barcelona. Porto host Sevilla in Group C, and the Group D game is Celta Vigo at home to Espanyol.
Team of the week
|Asenjo – Villarreal|
|C Romlu – A.Club|
|Kolodziejczak – Sevilla|
|Pareja – Sevilla|
|Jucilei – A. Club|
|Silva – Sporting|
|Ferreira Carrasco – A. Club|
|Amrabat – Malaga|
|Bacca – A. Club|
|Mbokani – A. Club|
|Mane – Sporting|