The 2018-19 LaLiga campaign has been anything but predictable thus far, evidenced by some of the clubs currently occupying the top half of the table. Several sides are punching above their weight, but nobody has done it quite like Alavés and manager Abelardo.
The Basque side are currently in second place, just a point behind Barcelona. El Glorioso have won six out of their first ten matches, doing so with strong defensive work and timely goals late in games.
After a 14th-place finish last term, Alavés focused on bringing in sharp reinforcements that could help them progress in the new season. Midfielder Tomás Pina (Club Brugge) and defender Ximo Navarro (Las Palmas) have each been strong additions, while the loan deal for Málaga’s Jony Rodríguez has provided a major boost for the attack.
Abelardo utilises a classic 4-4-2 formation, and counts on discipline at the back. Goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco has been outstanding, saving shots and helping to keep defenders positioned properly. Alavés have netted a respectable 14 goals through ten matches, but it is the timing of these goals that truly stands out.
In a September match at Real Valladolid, it was Ibai Gómez’s 93rd-minute strike that brought a 1-0 win. Against Getafe soon after, Jonathan Calleri matched that feat in the exact same minute to secure an important away point.
A historic victory for Alavés versus Real Madrid was secured thanks to captain Manu García’s header in stoppage-time, a result that had been many decades in the making. Most recently, it was that familiar late magic again as striker Borja Bastón (on-loan from Swansea City) scored the winner against Villarreal. Fans at the Mendizorrotza have been enjoying some truly wild scenes, and certainly nobody would dare think of leaving a match early this season.
These late winners for Alavés demonstrate the belief that Abelardo has been able to cultivate within his players, and they have been rewarded as they fight throughout every minute of a game. Some might point to luck, but there is clearly something special happening when the final moments are counting down.
After a mid-week Copa del Rey fixture against Girona, Alavés travel to face Eibar on Saturday afternoon. They will once again have an opportunity to move into first place, and a 93rd-minute goal would really not shock anyone at this point.