Drama at the death sees Pucela relinquish two points
Sunday, February 28th, 2021
Estadio Abanca-Balaídos, Vigo, Spain
CELTA VIGO 1
Jeison Murillo 90+4’
REAL VALLADOLID 1
Fabián Orellana 70’
A goal deep into stoppage time for Celta saw a share of the points at Balaídos in a match controlled by Real Valladolid for large periods of time. Fabián Orellana, a former player of Los Celestes, put his current side ahead with half an hour remaining when he capitalised on a lapse of concentration from the home defence, but Jeison Murillo rescued Celta by heading home an Iago Aspas free-kick in the 94th minute. Although it will feel like two points dropped, the result moved Pucela out of the relegation zone, into 17th place, by virtue of goal difference.
Having not won in the league since January 2nd, Sergio made four changes to the side who had lost narrowly to Real Madrid in their previous match. Most notably, the manager opted to replace goalkeeper Jordi Masip with understudy Roberto, who had not featured since Matchday 7 and the miserable 2-0 home loss to Deportivo Alavés, the club where he had spent the entirety of last season on loan at. The 35-year-old made his seventh start in the league, his 12th overall since joining from West Ham in the summer. There was a return from suspension for Lucas Olaza who missed last week’s match against Real Madrid. The left-back regained his place in the line-up in time to face his former club, who he left in January. On the opposite flank Saidy Janko returned to his native right-back spot after a cameo appearance in a midfield role last week. Having missed the last week’s match through injury, Óscar Plano earned a starting berth and assumed the captain’s armband with both Masip and Míchel on the bench. He was joined in midfield by Rubén Alacaraz, Roque Mesa and another ex-Celta player Fabián Orellana. Up front, Sergi Guardiola featured again – despite having only one goal to show for his efforts this season – alongside Shon Weissman.
After losing to Sevilla in Matchday 10 to start his tenure, manager Eduardo Coudet, in charge since November last year following the dismissal of Roger García, had then presided over four league wins which greatly improved their league position, taking them as high as ninth place. The well had run dry in recent weeks, however, with just one win int heir last ten league meatches and an embarrassing Copa del Rey exit at the hands of U.D. Ibiza by a score of 5-2. Celta’s last outing had seen them lose 2-0 to Valencia at Mestalla, capitulating in the final moments of the match and losing goals to Manu Vallejo in the 94th minute and Kévin Gameiro in 98th. In that match, goalkeeper Rubén Blanco had been sent off for a foul outside the box on Maxi Gómez. However, in the following days, the decision was overturned by the competition committee and Blanco took his place between the posts to face Real Valladolid. Only two changes were made from the side who lost to Valencia; Nolito had picked up a yellow card which handed him a one-match ban and was replaced by Brais Méndez, alongside Iago Aspas who returned to the lineup having missed last week’s match. The term ‘talismanic’ has become an over-applied word to a player who is vital to their club’s success but, in the case of Aspas, it does not come close to describing what his presence adds to Celta’s lineup. He replaced Facundo Ferreyra who was relegated to the bench after starting the Valencia match.
Real Valladolid made the more industrious start to the match, with Weissman making his presence felt after quarter of an hour when he took advantage of a bad touch from Renato Tapia, gaining possession on the edge of the box and testing Blanco, but the Celta goalkeeper parried the ball away. Olaza got into the mix too, raising calls for a penalty as he burst into the box and appeared to be clipped by Méndez, but the referee waved away the former Celta star’s claims and awarded a corner instead.
In a rare turn of events, Pucela were pulling the strings in the opening 20 minutes. Olaza slid a ball across the edge of the area for Alcaraz, but his effort on his weaker foot lacked quality and sailed high over the bar. They were unable to convert their dominance into goals and Celta began to carve out their own foothold in the match, with captain Hugo Mallo being heavily involved in their forays forward, but the home side were also lacking in the final third of the pitch and the first half petered out with neither side troubling the scoreboard.
The second period of play began in the same reserved fashion as the first had concluded. Coudet made two changes to his side just short of the hour mark, introuducing Miguel Baeza and the Scot, Jordan Holsgrove, for Augusto Solari and Denis Suárez respectively; both of whom had been disappointingly ineffective for the hosts.
Celta’s brightest chance of the match arrived two minutes later as a result of Olaza’s foul on Santi Mina. Aspas stepped up and struck a glorious freekick which left Roberto as a spectator, but he was relieved to see the ball rebound off the corner of the goal.
Real Valladolid responded and attempted to exert the same authority they had shown in the opening stage of the match. A short corner looked like a wasted opportunity, but the ball was eventually played around the edge of the area before Olaza threaded a through-ball for Guardiola who cut it back to Plano. The midfielder had ghosted into the box unmarked, but his left-footed shot on goal was diverted out by the deftest of touches from the outstretched Méndez, although no corner was awarded.
The hosts’ next change came as Nestor Araujo was replaced by Joseph Aidoo in a like-for-like defensive swap, as the Mexican appeared to pull a muscle in the build-up to Plano’s chance.
Aidoo had been on the pitch for less than three minutes when he found his side down a goal. Roque Mesa, who had been a focal point for Real Valladolid’s industry, burst forward from inside his own half and carried the ball into the heart of Celta’s defence. He drew a foul but advantage was rightly played, allowing Weissman to gather possession and work space for a shot. Blanco stretched out to push the ball away to his right, where Orellana was lurking. The home defence had been caught napping, leaving the former Celta player to side-foot home and give Pucela the lead. It was the Chilean’s third goal of the season, his first from open play, since his summer arrival from Eibar.
An immediate response came from Celta, with left-back Aarón Martín making way for Ferreyra as the Sky Blues shifted to a 4-4-3 look. As a counter-measure, Sergio began to batten down the hatches for the final ten minutes with Janko being replaced by fellow right-back Luis Pérez and extra defensive reinforcements arriving in the shape of Jawad El Yamiq for Weissman. Guardiola was next to leave, with Kenan Kodro coming on to pick up the lone striker role. Nacho entered the fray at the expense of Alcaraz and Fede San Emeterio replaced the goal-scorer Orellana as Pucela saw out the closing minutes in a 4-5-1 formation for the first time this season.
However, these extreme defensive measures proved to be inadequate as Celta stole a point deep into additional time. With three minutes of extra time indicated, the clock was approaching the 94th when Celta were awarded a freekick, a decision which looked soft at best. Midway into the Pucela half of the pitch, Fede tangled with Santi Mina who, along with Méndez, had spent most of the match on the floor attempting to buy cheap fouls. Again, it worked in his favour and proved to be decisive when Aspas lofted a deep ball into the box with his left foot. Bruno, who had been outjumped last week by Casemiro for the only goal of the match, had clearly not learned his lesson. The centre-back allowed Murillo to steal in behind him and offered no challenge to the Colombian as he rose to head past the static Roberto.
It was the cruellest of blows and did not reflect the effort put into the match by the team who gave the most cohesive performance in a number of weeks. However, their defensive frailties were again exposed and ended up costing them two valuable points. They did climb out of the relegation zone, finishing the 25th round of matches in 17th place, ahead of Deportivo Alavés by way of a better goal difference.
Pucela welcome Getafe to the José Zorrilla next Saturday afternoon, one of only four teams they have managed to beat this season. A positive result is imperative in their bid to stay afloat this season and a win would pull them to within two points of their 14th-placed opponents who are enduring a below-par season.
Celta Vigo (4-1-3-2): Rubén Blanco; Aarón Martín (Facundo Ferreyran76’), Jeison Murillo, Nestor Araujo (Joseph Aidoo 67’), Hugo Mallo (Capt.), Renato Tapia, Brias Méndez, Denis Suárez (Miguel Baeza 57’), Augusto Solari (Jordan Holsgrove 57’), Iago Aspas, Santi Mina.
Subs unused: Iván Villar; Kevin Vázquez, Jose Fontán, Fran Beltrán, Alfonso González.
Real Valladolid (4-4-2): Roberto; Lucas Olaza, Bruno, Joaquín, Saidy Janko (Luis Pérez 79’), Óscar Plano (Capt.), Rubén Alcaraz (Nacho 86’), Roque Mesa, Fabián Orellana (Fede San Emeterio 86’), Sergi Guardiola (Kenan Kodro 82’), Shon Weismann (Jawad El Yamiq 79’).
Subs unused: Jordi Masip; Miguel Rubio, Kike Pérez, Toni Villa, Míchel, Jota.