El Centrocampista

Tapas, two shots and two goals – Another crazy week for la liga’s crisis club

Valencia-v-Real-Zaragoza-Apono-celebrates

AFP/GETTY IMAGES
 

Just when Zaragoza fans thought their season could not get any stranger, along came this week. It started in familiarly disappointing mode, with a one goal lead established against Osasuna just four minutes from time last Sunday, only for the visitors to equalise from a needlessly conceded corner two minutes later.

Television footage also emerged of recent signing Carlos Aranda spending most of the build up to the game in the company of his former team mates and indeed various other Osasuna officials, long after all the other Zaragoza players had returned to the dressing room to begin their pre match preparations. Aranda remained pitch side in open defiance of coach Manolo Jimenez, who became increasingly irritated by his attitude, although he later denied that his decision to leave him on the bench all afternoon had anything to do with this apparent lack of respect.

It was therefore somewhat of a surprise when after announcing that he would have to buy all his team mates some tapas by way of an apology to them, Jimenez selected Aranda to start at Valencia on Wednesday night. However in truth it said more about his lack of options than an immediate reprieve. Much has been made of an apparent lack of regard shown by previous coach Javier Aguirre to the physical conditioning of the players in pre season, with rather too many now suffering issues with cramp during matches as a consequence. A rare midweek game simply exacerbated the problem, and with fellow striker Helder Postiga suspended, Aranda duly took his place as the lone striker.

What transpired over the next ninety minutes had to be seen to believed. The home side took the lead early on, although referee Del Cerro Grande really should have disallowed it for offside, with Aduriz standing right in front of ‘keeper Roberto as Pablo Hernandez’s shot entered the net.
Valencia were then handed a numerical advantage on twenty minutes, when Pablo Alvarez earned himself an early bath for a professional foul, yet still ended the half on level terms. Grande spotted a foul on Aranda in the area by Dealbert which no one else in the stadium saw, and Apoño made the most of his side’s good fortune.

Unai Emery’s men wasted countless golden opportunities to regain the lead, with ’maños’ keeper Roberto also having another inspired evening, and with fourteen minutes remaining, the unthinkable happened. Lafita made a rare sortie into the Valencia half before finding Apoño in space, and as the defence backed off, the on loan Malaga midfielder cracked an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

Two shots on target, two goals, three points. Even a second red card late on for Zucculini was not enough to change the outcome, and a first victory in nineteen years in the Mestalla was duly secured against all the odds.
So suddenly there is the faintest chink of light at the end of a very long dark tunnel, although even the most optimistic fan would still have Zaragoza as odds on to go down. The gap between them and fourth bottom Villarreal is six points, the nearest they have been to escaping the relegation zone for three months, but they may still need as many as six victories from their last ten games to survive. Given that they have only managed five wins all season, that looks a tall order.

One thing is for certain – regardless of results the action group ‘Let’s save Real Zaragoza’ will continue to campaign for owner Agapito Iglesias to give up his majority shareholding and thus end his association with the club. The ‘agapitada’ will again be heard this weekend when Atletico Madrid are the visitors, although the man at whom it is directed will presumably be absent, despite the fact that he continues to attend away games. Iglesias’ offer to sell up has yet to yield any definite offers, exactly as one suspects he would have anticipated, and so the stand off continues. Even those nineteen supporters who will be honoured this weekend for completing fifty years as season ticket holders have probably never seen anything like it.




One Comment

  1. Heath Chesters

    26 March, 2012 at 13:49

    With Sporting, Racing and Zaragoza now all level on points, even though they’re all six points behind Granada (which may change tonight) and Villarreal, seven from Real Betis, this relegation battle is far from over.

    Zaragoza have put themselves back in the fight and even with that gap still there. The wins against Valencia and Atlético will be a huge boost to morale, which could give them important momentum going into the final games.

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