El Centrocampista

Michel misery as Sevilla slump to Sporting

Sporting Gijón’s decision to reduce ticket prices for Saturday’s match against Sevilla certainly seemed to have been vindicated, as a sell-out crowd helped Javier Clemente’s side secure a much-needed victory over their Andalucian guests.

Although the result may not lift Sporting out of the relegation places, they seem to be moving in the right direction. Last week’s sterling performance against Barcelona at the Camp Nou was clearly an incentive for the Asturians, as they put in another excellent shift this week, securing their first victory in seven games and a first clean sheet since December.

For Míchel and his team however, it was a major setback in the race for the all important fourth spot in La Liga. After last week’s courageous draw at home against Atletico Madrid, the former Getafe coach would have been hoping for a better performance against a team twelve points below them in the league before the start of play.

The tone of the game was set off the pitch as Clemente and Míchel declined to shake hands before kick off – to say the two aren’t best of friends would probably be the understatement of the year. The feud goes back to 1997 when Clemente left his opposite number out of the Spanish National team. Míchel wasn’t exactly pleased with the decision and the two have been the worst of enemies since.

In Sevilla’s defence they were without the injured Freddy Kanouté and Alvaro Negredo, along with the suspended Gary Medel, and fans would have been slightly concerned with the lack of goalscoring threat sent out by the coach. Only 10 goals scored between the 11 players on the pitch and five of those came from Manu Del Moral.

Both sides started the game with very similar formations; 4-2-3-1. The difference being that the visitors had Del Moral up front who is not accustomed to such a lone striker role. By contrast, Sporting’s top goal scorer this season, David Barral is in fine form in front of goal with two goals in his last two games before the game.

It was no surprise then that the opening goal of the game went to Sporting. A sublime reverse pass was played into the feet of André Castro who controlled superbly with his right foot, swivelled, and shot with the outside of his left foot from the tightest of angles into the bottom corner. It was a magnificent strike but maybe questions could be asked about the goalkeeper, Palop, who didn’t exactly spread himself as well as he might have – adding more fuel to the argument that Javi Varas should be starting in goal for Sevilla.

Despite taking the lead, Sporting’s dire record when it comes to clean sheets this season, they’d gone seventeen games without one prior to this game, probably left fans less than confident they would keep the visitors out for the remainder of the game.

David Barral came off, and Sporting slipped into their ‘ultra’ defensive mode which has seldom proved fruitful this season – a quick look at the goals conceded column is proof to that. Sevilla, not surprisingly, dominated possession for the remainder of the game but in truth, seldom threatened the goal of Juan Pablo and on balance it has to be said the home side probably deserved their victory.

Sevilla have continued to exhibit a lack of creativity in midfield this season and it will surely  be of prime concern for their coach, a man who possessed a fine array of passing himself as a player. With the amount of talented players at his disposal, Míchel was obviously disappointed with their performance again on Saturday and if they are serious contenders in the race for a European place, the current run or poor form must be addressed before they fall the other way and end up in a relegation battle.

The result leaves Sporting just three points behind Villareal in seventeenth, although el submarino play Getafe tonight, and Clemente  will also fancy his side’s chances next week when they play fellow strugglers, Granada.

As for Sevilla, Míchel will be hoping to welcome Kanouté back into the team before their next game – a tie against current la liga champions Barcelona at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.


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