Last time out, Real Betis and Real Sociedad played out an eight goal thriller. Much of the same was expected again at the Estadio Villamarin on Thursday evening. A strong wind was blowing through the Andalusian stadium however, which effected both attendance (still reached over 40,000) and the quality of play. In what was largely an uneventful first half, it came to life in the final 25 minutes still, neither side were able to find the back of the net. In what was Betis’ first and Sociedad’s second 0-0 game of the season, a draw was a fair result overall.
Having struggled in large periods on Monday night against Levante by playing 4-4-2, Quique Setien clearly felt another shift in formation was required. This change in formation was Betis’ third change in four games.
Real Betis lined up in a 3-4-1-2 formation with Ryad Boudebouz and Christian Tello acting as two number tens just behind the lone striker Sergio Leon. Having played as the regular left back in recent games, Junior Firpo started again against Real Sociedad. This time in an unfamiliar position of centre back to the left of Aissa Mandi and Marc Bartra.
Real Sociedad lined up in their more regular 4-3-3 where Juanmi lead the line in place of injured Willian Jose. He was supported on either side by Sergio Canales and Mikel Oyarzabal.
January signing Hector Moreno started his first La Liga game for Real Sociedad since joining from Roma. Inigo Martinez replacement performed admirably for his first appearance in Spain since 2015 during his period with Espanyol.
The opening stages of the game was quite scrappy as neither side took control of the ball. There were a lot misplaced passes and ineffective counter attacks were the outcome. This was the scene for both teams for the opening 25 minutes.
A shot in hope from outside the box by Fabian Ruiz and a couple of blocked efforts from Sergio Canales were the best chances created in the opening 25 minutes.
Real Betis got the first clear chance of the game after 36 minutes. A long ball up field by Antonio Adan was headed on by Sergio Leon. Christian Tello ran onto the ball and shot but Miguel Moya’s right hand was strong enough to turn away the shot.
Christian Tello was the first to get a shot on target in the second half. Having received the ball on the left following a great run form Javi Garcia. The ex-Barcleona man shot from near 30 yards out where Moya was at full stretch to stop the ball curling inside his post.
In an effort to win a game that neither side looked like winning, Quique Setien threw his two old stalwarts into action. Joaquin was brought in to replace Ryad Boudebouz while Ruben Castro came on in place of Sergio Leon. Equally, Eusebio brought Adnan Januzaj into action in place of Juanmi.
The game seemed to come into life around the same time of these substitutions. Firstly Junior saw his shot drift wide of the post after a perfectly timed through ball from Christian Tello. In the other end, Sergio Canales tried to bend a left footed shot beyond Adan form outside the box. The ex-Real Madrid goalkeeper was able to claim it however.
A few minutes later, Mandi was forced to make a sliding tackle in order to halt Oyarzabal going through on goal. Right after that, Bartra – attempting to clear a low cross – almost inadvertently put the ball into his own net.
Manchester United-tracked right back Alvaro Odriozola found his shot from deep inside the box touched passed the post after 77 minutes. At this period of the game, it became very open and was easy to remember how the last meeting finished 4-4.
Antonio Adan nearly turned the ball into his own net following pressure from Oyarzabal. He flicked the ball from his left onto his right but not so smoothly. Oyarzabal was unable to take advantage of the mistake as Adan cleared his lines.
Just a minute later, 36 year old Joaquin won the ball on the edge of his own box. He sprinted up the field and played a one-two with Fabian. Receiving the ball deep inside Sociedad’s box and rounding Moya – he shot – but only managed to hit the side netting. This was the last clear chance of the game. Were it to continue for another 10 minutes, a goal in either side was bound to come.
For Real Betis, it was great to see Christian Tello play so well. He has not been playing at the top of his game of late and this performance should refill his confidence stores. Tello was the biggest threat during the game and was at the heart of the best chances created by Real Beits. Whatever formation Real Betis has used in their last few games, their defensive improvement has been huge. There are far less moments where they are wide open and transition from attack to defence much smoother of late. The introduction of Marc Bartra has been no coincidence in this significant improvement – the Spaniard made an incredible 17 clearances in this match. Considering this was the biggest concern before Christmas, Setien should feel much more confident in European qualification.
Real Sociedad should be very pleased to see Sergio Canales put in a decent performance tonight. With Willian Jose out of action, they will be looking to get goals form a bigger spread. Canales, similar to Tello was the biggest threat Sociedad carried throughout the game. La Real will be happy to take away a clean sheet against Betis. In recent games, the Basque club have struggled in defence. Having lost Inigo Martinez, this was an even greater concern, for that reason, Eusebio will be happy with one point.