Two early goals marked the opening match of LaLiga123 promotion play-offs as Numancia could only draw 1-1 to Real Zaragoza at their Los Pajaritos home.
The hosts opted for Guillermo to play the lone striker role, backed by a three-man support of Unai Medina, Pere Milla and Marc Mateu, while Natxo Gonzalez aligned his side with two up front in the shape of Jorge Pombo and the lethal Borja Iglesias.
The visitors got off to a perfect start after just four minutes as Alberto Zapater struck a delightful free-kick into the top corner of Aitor’s goal, with the ball just brushing the goalkeeper’s fingers as it found the net.
Numancia strike back immediately
Jagoba Arrasate’s side responded immediately and hit back seconds later, although perhaps more through good fortune than anything.
As they flowed forward, Pere Milla was brought down inside the Real Zaragoza half but the referee played advantage as Medina retained possession and attempted to finish the move.
His angled drive rebounded off the post, falling to Guillermo whose heavy touch evaded goalkeeper Cristian Alvarez and defender Julian Delmas to cross the line and send the home crowd into raptures.
There was a moment of controversy at the other end as Real Zaragoza’s Giorgi Papunashvili tumbled inside the box under a challenge from Carlos Guiterrez.
Controversial penalty decision
At first glance, the dramatic nature of the Georgian’s fall seemed to suggest he had tried to win a penalty, and the referee agreed as he brandished a yellow card much to the protest from the big midfielder.
However, upon closer inspection, there was evidence to suggest Gutierrez did in fact stand on Papunashvili’s foot, causing him to fall.
After the half-time break, Numancia goalkeeper Aitor had to look sharp to keep the score tied. First, Papunashvili tested him but the keeper saved, before Borja Iglesias failed to control the rebound and the hosts’ number one blocking Javier Ros’s low effort with his legs.
The Numantinos best chance was fashioned by some good work on the flank by left-back Saul who cut inside and played a tempting ball low into the box. Somehow it made it’s way through a packed penalty area to Medina but he dragged his shot disappointingly wide.
The match finished in a draw, which sets up a very palatable return leg in La Romareda on Saturday.