Why should we care about the Segunda playoffs? Well, we will be playing the eventual winner in the Primera, and, who knows, maybe there is a player or two on the three teams that don't make it who could find their way to Villarreal!
Both of yesterday's matches followed a similar pattern. The visiting team scored early and then was happy to sit back for the most part, soak up pressure, and then try and score a second goal on the counter. And in both cases, the home team equalized fairly late on off a corner kick. But there were differences, too.
Alcorcón 1 Girona 1-- I love watching games from Alcorcón's little bandbox of a ground; the camera angle is so low it feels as though you're sitting in the crowd. The Estadio Santo Domingo was pretty much full, with most of the crowd wearing yellow, though it was easy to tell where the Girona fans were, behind one goal.
Villarreal loanee Gerard Bordas started for the Catalans up front, and ex-Villarreal B man Kike Lopez started for the home side.
Girona started the better of the two sides, and went ahead in the 11th minute after a free kick was played to the top of the box and Moises Hurtado's shot went through a forest of legs and just inside the post, beating keeper Manu Fernandez (it was a low grass-cutter like Canteros's goal against Alcorcon, and at the same end of the ground).
Alcorcon were physical, as one should have expected, but didn't really do a lot in the first half to threaten Isaac Becerra in the Girona goal. Lopez had a chance with a bicycle kick but hit it into the ground, otherwise Girona were content to contest every ball hit toward Oriol Riera and give him as much punishment as he was dishing out.
To be honest, I didn't see a lot of quality from either side. Bordas was hardly visible, playing on an island up front it seemed to me, and Girona gave up more and more of the possession. After the break Alcorcon controlled the ball probably 80% of the time (I think they probably had 70% of the possession over the entire match) and equalized through Miguélez in the 64th minute--a corner kick was flicked on to the far post and the Alcorcon player outjumped his marker to head it home.
That was probably as much as they deserved, and it was all they got. As Villarreal showed, Girona's defense can be opened up by speedy wing play, but Alcorcon just don't have a lot of pace--their game is more brutal, slow, and mechanical. At one point Oriol Riera found himself in space down the right, and just had no idea what to do next--it summed up Alcorcon's day. Becerra was called upon to make one good save to keep the score level, as I recall, but otherwise it was mostly a lot of huffing and puffing.
I don't know why Dani Mallo wasn't in goal for Girona, btw, but Isaac did fine.
When Girona hosted Alcorcon recently, they won 3-2 with a Bordas goal late, after spotting Alcorcon a two-goal lead. I can see another 1-1 and it going to penalties in the return leg on Sunday.
Las Palmas 1 Almeria 1: Watching a televised match from the Estadio de Gran Canaria is frustrating because of the athletics track around the pitch and the openness of the ground at the ends. The stadium was probably a little more than half-full, but it seemed less than that. Maybe the locals have been turned off by some of the Pio Pio's recent performances.
Las Palmas started off very poorly, and their defense pretty much handed Aleix Vidal an opportunity in the 7th minute he wasn't going to pass up, as he put the ball high into the Las Palmas net past ex-Villarreal man Barbosa after a turnover. The first half was played at a slow pace and Las Palmas made numerous sloppy passes in midfield--and were lucky to finish the half with a full XI. Pignol hauled down an Almeria attacker just outside the box, was clearly last man, but only saw yellow.
The Pio Pio came out in the second half and made a double switch, with Javi Guerrero and Hernan coming on for Tato and Momo. This XI looked much better, with Vitolo and Thievy able to use their speed to get round the Almeria back line much more than in the first half. Still, Almeria's Soriano and Aleix Vidal constantly looked dangerous, and the visitors should have taken a 2-0 lead when Zongo led a counterattack down the right, crossed for Soriano who flicked the ball to Carlos Calvo (who had just replaced Falqué). The empty net yawned invitingly, but Calvo scooped his effort over the top from perhaps three yards out, if that.
Almeria may well rue that miss, because shortly afterward Las Palmas equalized through a corner kick that was flicked to the far post, with Thievy poking the ball over the line after an initial shot was parried. This was in the 84th minute, and as time wound down the home side pushed for a winner. In the 87th minute Hernán lashed a header toward Esteban, who palmed it away, but after the shot Hernan's followthrough created a crash of heads with Almeria's Trujillo, and the Pio Pio man was knocked out cold.
There were scary scenes as Almeria players, closest to him, waved first aid men frantically onto the field (play had continued briefly after he went down, but soon stopped). He was certainly unconscious and it appeared the medicos were afraid he would swallow his tongue, but beyond that it was hard to see what was going on. An ambulance was quickly called and he was rushed to the hospital. I'm happy to report that per the Las Palmas site he is OK and was discharged this morning.
As a result of this, a lot of injury time was played, but you could tell the incident had cast a pall over the proceedings and the sense of commitment and focus from both teams, but especially the home side, had been lost. But Almeria will feel hard done by as Zongo was clobbered in the area by David Garcia and the referee ignored what looked like a clear penalty.
Have to say Iago Falque played much better in this game than against us, Aleix was a handful, Barbosa did well to keep things 1-0. Charles had looked dangerous but went down with an ankle injury late in the first half. He started the second half but limped off four minutes in, replaced by Jonathan (Zongo). If he isn't able to go on Sunday, Almeria could have some problems.
Las Palmas have not been good away from home, although they have done better than one might have thought (7 wins and 5 draws) and one of those wins was in Almeria, in a match where they played the second half with 10 men. Christanus and Murillo, the goal-scorers on that day, didn't play yesterday, I know not why. Especially if Charles is out (he is doubtful, with a left ankle sprain) I have a feeling Almeria might struggle to go through.
Trivia note: If Las Palmas fail to win through, La Liga will be contested solely on the Spanish mainland for the first time in 25 years; the last season which didn't feature a club from the Canaries or Balearic islands was 1988-89.
Looking ahead to the finals, head-to-head this season:
Alcorcon defeated Las Palmas twice
Girona defeated Las Palmas 5-0 at home, lost to them 5-2 away
Alcorcon defeated Almeria 1-0 away, lost 0-3 at home
Girona lost to Almeria twice (0-1 home, 2-1 away).
We'll see if any of this matters!
Now, some more Villarreal-specific stuff--season tickets. Sr. Roig already said he didn't want lack of money to be a burden when it came to seeing a game in Villarreal, and he'd like to have 20,000 subscribers for the 2013-14 season. Season ticket prices have been lowered by 30% for next year, even though we're in the Primera, and people who had season tickets last year get a 5% reduction in the already low prices for next year.
The North stand (the one to the left when we see matches on TV from El Madrigal, and the one where the Collectivo Aldeano has been doing a great job making noise and cheering the team on!!) will cost €180 for a season ticket--that includes Primera matches and Copa del Rey as well. Less than €10 a time--wow.
2/3 of the seats at El Madrigal will cost €250 or less for a season pass--regardless of your age, and there are initiatives for the unemployed. Plus, if you attend all but two games, you get a 10% reduction in your season ticket for the following year!
Sr. Roig, GRACIAS!! ENDAVANT VILLARREAL!!