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Three valuable points at Butarque




Óscar Rodríguez (P) 84’


Enes Ünal 2’

Rubén Alcaraz 54’

Real Valladolid got back to winnings ways on Saturday evening, as they narrowly saw off a stubborn Leganés side. With both teams having been out of competitive action since March 8th prior to LaLiga ceasing operations in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was not the smoothest of matches by either side. Mistakes were peppered throughout both teams’ performances, but none was more telling that in the second minute when home defender Chidozie Awaziem and goal keeper Pichu Cuellar combined to make a mess of speculative ball forward which allowed Enes Ünal in to open the scoring. Despite enjoying the bulk of possession, Javier Aguirre’s men were unable to fashion many opportunities. Rubén Alcaraz added a second for Pucela shortly before the hour, but a late Óscar Rodriguez penalty for the hosts set up a tense final portion of the game.

Aguirre had made several changes to the side who surprised Villarreal at La Cerámica in Round 27, a seemingly incomprehensible 14 weeks prior. He reverted to a standard 4-4-2 from the a lone-striker look and pushed Óscar up to support Guido Carríllo. Aitor Ruibal dropped to the bench, as did Greek defender Dimitrious Siovas. Club captain Unai Bustinzas returned to the starting eleven, and was joined in the defensive line by Nigerian defender Kenneth Omeruo who had started the previous twelve consecutive league matches before surprisingly the victory over Villarreal as a substitute.

As with all LaLiga fixtures currently, the match was played behind closed doors (Image: LaLiga)

Pucela had not had such a positive experience prior to the league being paused. A stinging 4-1 home loss to Athletic Club, a match where they remained in contention until late on, hung in the collective consciousness of the Real Valladolid players for what had seemed like an eternity. Sergio made wholesale changes to his lineup; Pedro Porro, Kiko Olivas, Míchel and Sandro all made way and in came captain Javi Moyano into defence along with Raúl Carnero, and Fede San Emeterio in a four-man midfield, and Sergi Guardiola partnered Ünal in attack.

No sooner had the match started than Real Valladolid were in front. Inside the second minute, Javi Moyano slid in to clear the ball from the right touchline deep into the opponents’ half. A breakdown in communication between Awaziem and Cuellar saw the Nigerian head back to his advancing ‘keeper and it allowed Ünal, who had faithfully chased down the long ball, to steal in behind them and notch his fifth goal of the season.

It was a disastrous start for the hosts who are scrapping for salvation and were desperate to grab the opportunity of playing against a team also loitering in the lower reaches of the league. A little over ten minutes later, they offered a response when a crunching tackle on Ünal by Kenneth Omeruo put paid to a Real Valladolid attack and allowed los pepineros to counter. Kevin Rodrigues, playing on the left of midfield, collected the loose ball and played it on to Roque Mesa before continuing his run. Mesa fed Óscar who returned it in stride to Rodrigues and he drove at the heart of the visitors’ defence. He reached the edge of the box and sent an effort in but had slipped at the crucial moment and Pucela goalkeeper Jordi Masip – at full stretch – saw it fly past him and his left post.

Real Valladolid picked up two yellow cards in the first half; Sergi Guardiola was adjudged to have out his arm across the face of Awaziem while going up for a header and Óscar Plano tangled with Leganés left-back Jonathan Silva during a tackle by the defender.

Enes Ünal feels the weight of a challenge by Kenneth Omeruo (Image: LaLiga)

Shortly before half time, Carrillo squandered a good chance by volleying over the bar inside the box following a header down by Omeruo.

The sides headed into the half time interval with Pucela a goal to the good, despite Leganés enjoying the majority of possession in the first 45 minutes.

After the restart, Sergio’s men signalled their intention to further their lead with Alcaraz leading the charge. A left-footed inswinging corner by Carnero – operating in a left-midfield role as opposed to his usual full-back position – was headed on by the hosts’ Óscar and Alcaraz volleyed over the frame of the goal under pressure from Mesa and Rodrigues.

However, the Catalan midfielder was not to denied just a minute later as he doubled the advantage. Joaquín, reprising his role at centre-back which he had fulfilled so admirably last season, broke up a Leganés attack. He played the ball forward to Guardiola and his neat touch deftly diverted it into the path of the ever-industrious Ünal who charged down the right flank. He found Plano who cut into the box and pulled the ball back from the goal-line where Carnero lay in wait. The January signing swung at fresh air, but Alcaraz was directly behind him and rifled a half-volley into the roof of the net past a stranded Cuellar.

Again, Leganés threatened ten minutes after conceding a goal. Carrillo headed over after Óscar had sent in a delightfully weighted delivery from midfield. The striker rose above Joaquín, but should have done better as the game began to open up.

Moments later, Nacho clipped the ball into Guardiola who controlled the ball inside the Leganés box. He faked out the defender but opted not to hit the first time shot, but then dragged his left-footed effort agonisingly wide right.

Plano made way for Pablo Hervías on 67 minutes and the winger tried to catch Cuellar out at his near post with a tight-angle free-kick but could only find the side netting.

Speculation continues to swirl around the future of defender Mohammed Salisu, who looks set to leave the club and, it seems, LaLiga too. He had not put a foot wrong during the match but was close to inadvertently handing Leganés a goal. A give-and-go between substitute Aitor Ruibal and Roberto Rosales saw the replacement angle a driven ball across the box from the right. It took a deflection off the Ghanaian but Masip dived low at his left post to smother and spare Salisu the embarassment.

With nine minutes remaining, Sandro replaced Sergi Guardiola and Real Valldolid were looking comfortable. However, Salisu then threw Leganés a lifeline when he conceded a penalty. Substitute Roger Assalé tried to send in a corner from the right, which was initially blocked by Salisu. The ball fell back into Assalé who then attempted to ghost past the defender, only to be brought down by a clumsy challenge. The penalty duties fell to Óscar, who had scored the winner from the spot in the outing against Villarreal. Masip must have done his homework as he guessed correctly and dived to his left, the same spot that Óscar had scored from in his previous match, but he was unable to get fingertips to the powerful effort and Leganés had reduced the arrears.

The team celebrates the second goal (Image: LaLiga)

Sergio handed defender Javi Sánchez his league debut, as the Real Madrid loanee replaced Ünal and Waldo was brought on in place of Carnero.

In injury time, Sandro had the chance to secure the points but hit his shot off Rodrigues, although the flag had been raised for a borderline offside decision against Waldo in the build-up.

Time ran out and Real Valladolid made it across the finish line to collect a vital three points in their quest to avoid being dragged down into the relegation mire. There was an essence of good fortune about the result, as the approach had seemed quite defensive and Sergio seemed happy to let Leganés have the ball. It worked this time, but arguably a more pro-active approach would be required against opponents of a higher league standing as the matches start to come thick and fast.

LEGANÉS (4-4-2): Pichu Cuellar; Jonathan Silva (Bryan Gil 59’), Chidozie Awaziem, Kenneth Omeruo, Unai Bustinza (Capt.) (Roger Assalé 46’), Kevin Rodrigues, Roque Mesa (Aitor Ruibal 59’), Ibrahim Amadou, Roberto Rosales (Javier Avilés 88’), Guido Carrillo (Miguel Ángel Guerrero 78’), Óscar Rodríguez.

Substitutes unused: Juan Soriano; Marc Navarro, José Recio, Rodrigo Tarín, Javier Eraso, Rubén Pérez.

REAL VALLADOLID (4-4-2): Jordi Masip; Nacho, Mohammed Salisu, Joaquín, Javi Moyano (Capt.), Raúl Carnero (Waldo 88’), Fede San Emeterio, Rubén Alcaraz, Óscar Plano (Pablo Hervías 67’), Sergi Guardiola (Sandro 81’), Enes Ünal (Javi Sánchez 88’).

Substitutes unused: Samu Pérez; Pedro Porro, Hatem Ben Arfa, Kiko Olivas, Matheus Fernandes, Antoñito, Toni Villa, Míchel.

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