Goals were in short supply in Week 38 of Spain’s second tier, with just 20 being netted in one of the lowest scoring weeks of the season so far. Despite this, the goals that did go in ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. As always, the action was still captivating as the race for the title, and safety, nears its conclusion.
Granada could not have wished for a more difficult opponent for their first match since the dismissal of Pedro Morilla after just six weeks in charge. New manager Miguel Ángel Portugal made his debut in the technical area for the Andalusian side on Monday night against Rayo Vallecano, but his side were beaten 2-0. Two goals, six minutes apart, were enough for the visitors who surged back to the top of the league after being temporarily replaced by Huesca early on Saturday. Bebé opened the scoring shortly after the hour mark when his drive from outside the box took a slight touch from Matthieu Saunier before finding its way past the sprawling Javi Varas in the home goal. Granada had a great chance to level the scores, but Alberto García spread himself wide to deny Javier Espinosa who looked certain to fire home from Víctor Díaz’s cutback. This moment changed the complexion of the game completely as, almost instantly, the home side found the deficit doubled when Rayo flowed downfield and a wonderful passing move was capped by Óscar Trejo’s tap-in.
Real Zaragoza further signalled their intentions to be promoted by knocking off Sporting Gijón 2-1 at La Romareda on Saturday. The visitors had been riding high in advance of this fixture, having lost just once in 13 fixtures but they were sunk by a Borja Iglesias double. However, the home side had goalkeeper Cristian Álvarez to thank as he pulled off a string of saves to assure his side of the three points. Only ten minutes had lapsed, when Sporting’s defence did the same and allowed the home marksman to steal in behind them to head home the first of his brace. As the visiting defenders protested half-heartedly for a push in the back, the prolific striker wheeled away in celebration. This was a familiar sight and, just before the half-hour mark, he was at it again after collecting a clinical through-ball from the halfway line by right-back Julian Delmas, and stroked the ball past the outstretched Diego Mariño for his 19th goal of the season.
Álex Bergantiños was the first to test Álvarez as he went close with a header from a corner which the ‘keeper touched over the bar. He was then called on to turn Carlos Carmona’s long freekick past the post.
Eight minutes into the second period, there was nothing Álvarez could do to keep out a sumptuous effort by Rúben García when the midfielder perfectly curled his effort low past the goalkeeper’s grasp to reduce the arrears. Carmona had a header scooped over the bar and was then denied twice in immediate succession with point-blank efforts which were blocked by the Argentine.
Jorge Pombo almost capped the win with a fine strike, but it rebounded off the underside of the bar with Mariño beaten. However, Natxo González’s side held on for a well-earned win and reaped the rewards in the standings. The win saw Los Maños jump two places to fourth, nestling just four points behind Sporting. For the visitors, this loss coupled with a win by Huesca 4-2 over Córdoba saw Rubén Baraja’s charges slide from second to third place.
In fact, Huesca took advantage of this slip-up by the Asturians to head to the top of the table, albeit briefly, on the back of their fourth win in a row as they picked apart relegation-threatened Córdoba.
The opening goal, on 22 minutes, was a thing of beauty. David Ferreiro tormented home defender Aythami Artiles, turning him inside out multiple times, before clipping a deft ball into the box which was met by Álex Gallar who acrobatically turned the ball in with an off-balance volley. The second, 14 minutes later, lacked the spectacular nature of it’s predecessor but doubled the visitor’s lead. Moi Gomez collected a cross into the box and slid it through to Gonzalo Melero who bundled the ball over the line in rudimentary fashion and Rubi’s men were cruising at halftime.
After the break, the hosts began to find their stride and Sergi Guardiola pulled one back for his team netting for the third week in a row in the process. The striker claimed his 20th goal of the season, doing very well to connect with right-back Miguel Loureiro’s teasing delivery into the box and steering it past Álex Remiro. However, moments later, Huesca regained their two-goal lead with an almost carbon copy of Córdoba’s goal. Again, it was Ferreiro with the service and Cucho Hernández turned in the ball at the back post.
Unbowed, Los Califas were back within a goal thanks to a penalty from evergreen José Antonio Reyes, following Carlos Akapo’s clumsy challenge on Guardiola. The former Sevilla man sent Remiro the wrong way and a palpable sense of hope emanated from the Nuevo Arcángel. However, this optimism was dashed by the feet of Cucho who bagged his second of the afternoon. The on-loan Colombian won a penalty and converted it himself to seal the win for his side. Huesca took advantage of Sporting losing and return to second. At the other end of the table, Córdoba could not gain any ground on Almería who claimed an away point later that evening.
Real Valladolid earned three valuable points away to in-form Numancia. A Borja Fernández goal was all that separated the two sides in the meeting of Castile and León foes. Los Rojillos had taken four wins from their previous five matches coming into this one, and were heavily favoured. Despite seeing the balance of possession tip in their favour, they were undone by Borja’s sucker punch with 13 minutes left to play. Míchel’s freekick from the left was perfectly placed into the gap between backline and goalkeeper and Borja stretched out a leg to divert it past Aitor Fernández. Pucela have now gathered seven points from nine available and remain in the hunt, while Numancia fall one place to fifth.
A run of four consecutive draws finally came to an end for Osasuna as they beat Gimnàstic 2-0 in Tarragona in Sunday’s early kick-off to keep them within touching distance of the playoff chasers. Rober Ibáñez got his side in front on half an hour, taking advantage of a missed clearance by Javi Jiménez and rifling into the net. The second, scored by Xisco two minutes before the break, was nothing short of bizarre and left the home side and fans seething. Lillo’s pass from the left was aimed at Roberto Torres, but touched a defender before falling to him. The official immediately raised his flag and, as one might expect, the Nàstic players relaxed. However, Xisco ended up with the ball from Torres’ pass as the referee waved play-on and he backheeled the ball past the goalkeeper who was trying to retrieve it to take the assumed freekick. Despite vociferous protests from the home players, the goal stood.
Another team ending a barren spell was Real Oviedo. After two consecutive defeats had thrown their quest for promotion off the beaten path, they got on the right track again as they disposed of strugglers Lorca by a score of 2-0 at the Carlos Tartiere. The visitors came unstuck on 34 minutes when Juan Pedro Pina picked up a second yellow card for a lunging tackle on Diegui Johannesson as the Icelandic defender burst forward. The visiting captain was shown the red card and trudged off. To make matters worse for Lorca, they were punished almost immediately as, a minute later, Miguel Linares spun round to lash home a short-range volley for the first goal.
The hosts could not make their extra-man advantage pay any further until quarter of an hour remained and Linares headed home the second goal, and his eighth of the campaign, from Mossa’s pinpoint cross.
Reus made the short trip along the coast to play Barcelona B and were the latest team to hand the blaugrana a loss. Mayor’s early goal separated the sides and ensured the hosts left the Mini Estadi with an impressive record of three wins and a draw from their last four matches. In contrast, Barcelona B have now lost seven in a row and are winless in eleven matches. They have lost both of their matches under new manager Francisco Javier García Pimienta.
Lugo hosted bottom side Sevilla Atlético at the Anxo Carro on Sunday and emerged victorious by a score of 1-0. In doing so, they stemmed the tide of a six match winless run. Dani Escriche was the match-winner, getting in the scoresheet for the second time in three games.
At the Carlos Belmonte, Albacete and Cádiz locked horns with neither side seeming to be able to buy a win of late. Thus, it was fitting that the match ended in a 1-1 draw with the two sides each scoring a penalty in the first half.
Elsewhere, there were goalless draws between Alcorcón and Cultural on Friday night, as well as Tenerife and Almería on Saturday evening.