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PENALTY MISS COSTS ELCHE

7 min read

Not his night. Coro, who missed from the spot

Elche 0 Osasuna 0
Another two points were thrown away by Elche on Friday evening in front of a good-sized crowd of 21,722.

The odd 22 Osasuna supporters high in the away stand won’t have made the long trek home too happy, but a point fairly shared was really all that was deserved by both teams, equal on 26 points and almost exactly the same in goal statistics.

Elche looked good on paper at 4-4-2, although left back Albacar was on the bench, and regular midfielder Carles Gil out injured, his place taken by the Columbian international Carlos ‘The Rock’ Sanchez. Now that Manu has returned from 3 months out injured he and young rising Franjiverde star Christian provided a big, mobile, two-pronged attack: game on!

The visitors announced their intentions with an early header well saved from close in by Elche’s Tono, but steadily Ruben Perez was guiding his team to create chances, putting a long drive over himself and Coro blazing wide following Elche pressure from a free kick and a corner.

Another unmarked Osasuna header from a corner was again well saved by Tono, while at the other end Carlos Sanchez’s header went well over the bar: 0 – 0 at half time with everything to play for.

The tempo was stepped up in the second half, and as the temperature rose bookings abounded from both sides. On the hour as Elche’s Manu cut into the penalty area he was scythed down, and everyone was mildly surprised as the referee led everyone to the penalty spot.

Hmm…just one minor problem: Elche’s Dead-Eye Dick, never-miss penalty-taker Albacar was on the bench, obviously still not quite match-fit. Manu, Christian and Coro went into a quick huddle to discuss who was going to take it – and Coro picked up the ball.

From being Elche’s leading scorer and hero in that last, fabulous season when the Franjiverdes were at last promoted back to La Liga after 24 years, these days Coro is in wretched form, a shadow of the player he was last year.

True, he did score the opening goal in last weeks 2 – 2 draw away at Valladolid, but… As we all held our breath the penalty sailed high over the bar, and with it went Elche’s only one, perfect chance to win the match. Both sides then huffed and puffed with no really good opportunities, no Valentine’s Day massacre here by the finish

With 15 minutes later Elche’s goalkeeper Tono pulled up injured, and he was replaced by last year’s hero Manu Herrera: he never lets the Franjiverdes down, but these days is somewhat bizarrely left on the bench. The only other strange, but pleasing incident happened five minutes from the end as Osasuna made their final substitution.

Who should come on but Nino, one of Elche’s favourite sons from way back, who is gratifyingly still playing after several moves since he was a popular Martinez Valero regular, always scoring 15 – 20 goals per season. The applause was warm and genuine: nice touch…

Before the other teams around them play at the weekend, Elche are 12th on 26 points, crucially five golden points over third from bottom Valladolid (who Elche led 2 – 0 before ending 2 – 2 last week, grrr…).

It’s not enough to feel comfortable with 15 matches to go, especially coupled with the fact that the Franjiverdes go into the lion’s den next Saturday at the Bernabeu against mighty Real Madrid – who cruelly took all three points in Elche back in November.

Revenge? Who knows, anything can, and does happen in football…

Mucho Elche!

Photos_ KEVIN RENDALL

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/42625/

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