While chaotic scenes were unfolding in Barcelona, in another nationalist region within Spain, this time the Basque country, the game of the season so far was played out in front of almost 20,000 people in the Anoeta.
With 8 goals and some incredible counter attacking goals, the two most exciting teams in the league so far this year (ranked 2nd and 3rd in terms of goals scored after Barcelona). Thankfully, for us football lovers, the Basque and Andalusian representatives played whilst remaining completely oblivious to scenes in Barcelona.
Real Betis opened the scoring in the 5th minute in what was a standard throughout the match – a counter attack. Fabian, having received the ball from defence, powered through the centre of the pitch – a common theme during this season so far.
He played the ball out to his right to Barragan. After his attempted cross was bundled away and a mini game of ping pong occurred, the ball found its way back to Fabian on the edge of the box. His composure and real sign of class was apparent as he controlled the ball and lofted it over the Real Sociedad defenders into the path of free scoring Sanabria. The former Roma striker controlled with his right and finished with his left. As he wheeled away in celebration, there were slight concerns of offside but the goal stood. 0-1
Real Sociedad didn’t take long to respond as they scored their first in the 12th minute through a header from Willian Jose. Xabi Prieto picked up the ball in the centre of the pitch inside Betis’ half and spread the play out to Odriozola, who was freely moving up and down the right flank all day. The young Spaniard put a cross into the box where Willian Jose moved in from the edge of the area to meet the ball on the six yard box. The ball got a slight deflection off Barragan passed the helpless Adan. 1-1
The third goal of the game was a special one where Willian Jose collected the ball from a throw in near the corner flag. He back heeled the ball through the legs of Barragan into the path of Kevin Rodrigues, who pulled the ball across the box, toward the penalty spot into the path of Oyarzabal who finished handsomely into the corner of the goal. 2-1
2 minutes later, the Andalusian outfit responded through a Zou Feddal headed goal from an Andres Guardado corner. The Mexican, who has been one of the best signings of the summer, put the ball into the perfect area – between the six yard box and the penalty spot in the centre of the goal. The Moroccan international, rose highest where he was tussling with Diego Llorente and headed toward goal where Raul Navas’ attempt to clear ended up with the ball in the back of the net. 27 minutes gone and 4 goals already … some scintillating stuff! 2-2
The second half didn’t take long to kick off as there was a goal inside the first 2 minutes. On a break-away, Andres Guardado (again) picked up the ball in central midfield, having spun around Xabi Prieto in order to open the remainder of the pitch, he slipped in a through ball beyond Raul Navas into the path of 36 year old Joaquin where he showed no sign of slowing down as he raced through, took the ball to the right of Rulli, adjusted his body and finished with his right into the corner. 2-3
Real Sociedad responded yet again 10 minutes later. Having played the ball back to Rulli, they went from goalkeeper to goal in 3 passes and 12 seconds. Rulli played the ball out to Zurutuza where he played a delightful ball over the heads of Real Betis defenders. As Mandi was out of position and having stepped too far ahead of the play, Juanmi ran onto the ball, played it across the goal where captain Xabi Prieto was able to finish the job. 3-3
The 7th goal of the game with only 7 minutes of normal time remaining. Fabian, having picked up the ball on the edge of his own box following a Real Sociedad attack breaking down spotted the space in behind the Basque clubs defence. He played a ball into the oppositions half, Sergio Leon, the lone striker controlled the ball on the run, beat Sergio Canales for pace and riffled the ball passed Rulli into the net. 3-4
With so much excitement already having taken place, there was still room for a small bit more with Real Sociedad coming up with an equaliser with minutes remaining. Diego Llorente, having found space inside the Real Betis box, he rose to meet Illaramendi’s corner and powered his header passed former Real Madrid goalkeeper Adan. 4-4
Overall, looking at the match, there was great excitement where it looked like a goal was only a moment away at any one stage. This was heightened by the fact the both teams defence were substandard. Looking at Diego Llorente’s and the games 8th goal, the former Madrid man had 3 yards radius of space free of a Real Betis player. With only 5 minutes to go in the game, this isn’t good enough form a team looking to break into Europe.
As good and attractive as Setien’s Real Betis are going forward and in possession, there are some concerns still in place regarding their defending. There seems to be a lack of unity at times. Mandi stepping out of position for Sociedad’s 3rd goal was a perfect example of this.
Going forward, it’s clear both teams need to tighten up their defences. Real Sociedad have conceded as many goals as they have scored so far this season and with 17 conceded, they are also the team to have seen most go passed their goalkeeper.
Quique Setien is clearly getting his team to play in tandem with his style going forward. With Guardado and Fabian in particular, they should be able to create ample opportunities for the likes of the eternal Joaquin, Sergio Leon and currently free-scoring Antonio Sanabria.