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PARTY TIME AT THE MARTINEZ VALERO

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Mario Pašalić was on target for the third

Elche CF 4 – 0 RC Deportivo de La Coruña
No, seriously, that really was the final score ! In a season with rather too many disappointments, both on and off the field, Elche dispelled the gloom with a scintillating performance that belied their position near the foot of the table.

It was one of those nights where the more the team did the more the crowd, who have been magnificent all season long, got behind them which, in turn, lifted the team to further heights. Granted, the opposition – they call them ‘Super’ closer to home – weren’t up to much but Elche still had to play, and beat, a direct relegation rival. And didn’t they just ?

Barely twenty thousand were present, the 10pm kick-off time on a school night saw to that, but those that made the effort were given an absolute treat. Had Lionel Messi done what Uruguayan full-back Damián Suárez managed in the fifth minute, the football world would have been in raptures. Picking up the ball outside the Depor penalty area, he strode forward to beat three lukewarm tackles with a display of twinkling feet that far better know South American would have been proud to lay claim to. His final contribution to the opening goal was a deft cut back for man-of-the-moment Jonathas to make no mistake with from close range.

Nerves duly settled, Elche doubled their lead a quarter of an hour later, this time via the penalty spot. Visiting centre-back Lopo fell foul of referee Xavier Alvarez with a non too subtle shirt pull that saw Enzo Roco also go tumbling. David Lombán stepped up to do the business; picking the opposite corner to the one goalkeeper Fabricio chose. With no further goals in a somewhat one-sided half – Depor were deeply disappointing not super – Elche went in at the break a couple up, on a high and fully expecting more goals. That was exactly how things turned out.

Within ten minutes of the restart, Elche notched their third. Inattentive defending saw Jonathas home free and, more to the point, onside. You’d have put your house on him scoring but, instead, his weak shot looped up off the feet of Fabricio and headed goal-wards where Chelsea loanee Mario Pašalić was handily placed to nod the ball over the line. With fully thirty five minutes remaining the result was in no doubt, the fans knew it, the players knew it and so too, seemingly, did Depor.

In any other match, the amount of chances Elche created and the managed to squander would have been criminal, they were all over the visitors. It mattered not. The fourth and final Elche goal eventually came late on and was missed by getting on for six thousand people who had already left.

They missed a good one. Cape Verdean international Garry Mendes, who probably deserves more game time than he actually gets, picked up the ball deep inside the Elche half and simply kept on going. Approaching the Depor box with the solitary visiting defender backing off, he chose to ignore the men either side of him and, instead, drilled a left foot shot passed a well beaten Fabricio.

This victory, Elche’s tenth of the season was easily their best and all but guarantees their La Liga safety. So poor are the teams beneath them, a single point from their remaining four matches might not even be necessary. Finally, a reward for the fans and, in particular, Fran Escribá after an, at times, fraught season.

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