In stoppage time, one of the advertisement boardings by Tag Heuer read: “Don’t crack under pressure”. With Real Betis seemingly ready to drop two points against beatable opposition, they seemed to take inspiration from this, stuck with their game plan and didn’t crack under pressure. They ended up carving out a win for themselves and make one step further into European football next season. Marc Bartra made one step further into the Spanish World Cup squad also with a man of the match performance.
Dani Gimenez showed his confidence in goal very early on as he performed a Cruyff turn under pressure in his own six yard box in the opening two minutes. This really set the trend for the great game ahead; both teams placed pressure up high and both tried to play out of such situations.
Jonathan Calleri was the brightest player for the islanders in the first half. His hard work has been constant for Las Palmas this year but the 24 year old, with seven has not been converting enough chances to keep Las Palmas in La Liga.
The Argentinian had an opportunity on the 18th minute with a free header following good ball retention from his midfield teammates. The West Ham United loanee was only able to nod the ball in the direction of Gimenez. He misjudged the flight of the ball and was unable to get decent purchase on the shot.
Following a body swerve in midfield – in a way only Joaquin can – the 36 year old’s attempted through ball to Boudebouz was over-cooked. The 45,000 strong home supporters showed their appreciation for the much loved winger as they chanted ‘Joaquin, Joaquin, Joaquin’.
Alberto Aquilani found the back of the net after 22 minutes. Michel Macedo was correctly judged offside after strong centre forward play from Calleri.
Junior Firpo put the ball narrowly over from inside the box after a great display of dribbling from Boudebouz. The Algerian salaamed his way through the Las Palmas box and cut back to Junior who just got in front of the defender but saw the ball sail over.
A clear issue for Las Palmas in this game was the lack of balance in their set up. Atypical of a Paco Jemez team, there was an overload in midfield. Once they had the ball in midfield, they wanted to keep it there. There was a lack of creativity in the final third and in transitioning from attack to defence, they leave their defence exposed.
Marc Bartra showed his attacking ability tonight as he found his way deep into Las Palmas’ half following a long dribbling run. He played a through ball to Sergio Leon where Raul Lizoain was a full stretch to deny the Spaniard.
Bartra’s fourth journey up the field was his best. He first intercepted a ball in his own third, chipped the ball over an onrushing Las Palmas player, skipped passed another effortlessly and carried it to the edge of the other box.
Marc Bartra played a through ball beyond the Las Palmas defence into the path of Joaquin. Having taking control, he cut onto his right just outside the box. With only mind for goal, the Spaniard rejected the opportunity to play in Sergio Leon for a clear cut chance and was dispossessed by the returning Alejandro Galvez.
Michel Macedo saw himself get a second yellow card after a lazy tackle on Guardado having lost the ball. This left Las Palmas with no substitutions available and one less man on the field for the final five minutes of normal time.
Antonio Barragan squandered a great chance to get his side the win following great play form Costa Rica international Joel Campbell late into stoppage time but put his shot narrowly wide of the post.
Betis slowly built up their play with some interchange of passes between Fabian, Bartra and Guardado. The man who missed the glorious chance a minute earlier, Antonio Barragan turned provider this time. 94 minutes into the game, he was once again given the ball by Campbell down the right hand side. He crossed into the centre where Junior Firpo pulled a yard back from his marker and headed into the right hand corner. Real Betis 1-0 Las Palmas
Overall, it was a fair result. As mentioned earlier, Las Palmas struggled to create any threatening chances. They maintained a decent flow in midfield with Etebo impressing, which he has done since his January move to Gran Canaria. With 44% of possession, the islanders didn’t manage to get any shot on target. With Levante getting an equally late winner against Malaga, this puts Las Palmas 13 points shy of safety and will be looking to the Segunda for next season.
For Real Betis, once again their composure in the late stages of the game has saved them. The advertisement boarding by Tag Heuer seemed to have given the home side a motivation and a clear message as they equalled the club record of six consecutive wins. Marc Bartra and Ryad Boudebouz were easily the two best players on the pitch. Bartra however was faultless today and should have a seat reserved for Russia in the summer. This now moves the Andalusian side four points clear of Villarreal in sixth and seven points clear of neighbours Sevilla in seventh. With only five games left in the season, Real Betis are in a great position to qualify for European football. Not only this, but by finishing in fifth, they will avoid qualification games at the start of next season.
Real Betis: Gimenez; Barragan, Mandi, Bartra, Amat, Junior; Guardado, Fabian, Joaquin (Sanabria); Boudebouz (Campbell), Sergio Leon (Tello)
Las Palmas: Lizoain; Macedo, Garcia, Galvez, Navarro, Castellano; Halilovic (Vicente), Etebo, Aquilani (Castellano), Nacho Gil (Ezekiel); Calleri