Esperpento in Seville

“I had not seen this in my life. You always learn something new ”, stated Lucas Ocampos just after the surreal ending of Sevilla’s fifth consecutive victory, now against Granada. The reason, the dismissal of the referee De Burgos Bengoechea. The referee gave four minutes of extension and whistled the end when three had been completed. “He said his clock stopped,” said Víctor Díaz, Granada defender. The visiting footballers, who lost 2-1, then reproached him for not complying with the announced four minutes. And the assistants warned him that, in effect, he had swallowed that minute. He had whistled the end and, in the midst of the protests, the players of the two teams had hugged, exchanged shirts and stripped off bandages and shin guards. Even Monchi, the sports director, had gone down to the pitch to greet his team. Until, with faces of stupefaction, the players returned from the locker room to play the remaining minute and put the end to the delirious situation that occurred at Sánchez Pizjuán.

Shortly before the incredible finale, Sevilla had carved a victory to chain a streak of 22 of the last 24 points and certify their qualification for the Champions League for the second consecutive year. With players like Koundé, Sevilla feel capable of fighting for any war. The League included. They are already one point behind second place for Madrid and Barcelona (this one with one game less). Koundé represents like few others the impudence and strength of the Andalusian team, a competing rock, a group that also exudes a lot of football when it plays and that, before a Granada that never gives up, discovered the new and increasingly convincing version of Papu. The Argentine midfielder, more refined and adapted to the demanding system of Julen Lopetegui, was the target of the penalty that opened the scoring through Ocampos. Then, he was the smartest in the class to break away from Acuña’s throw-in and put a fantastic center back that Ocampos finished off. Granada fought until the end and managed to reduce the distance in the last minute from a penalty through Soldado. He did not have time for more despite the surreal final situation.

Sevilla has no problem avoiding the logical obstacles that try to alter its imperial march in the League. Logical problems posed by good technicians, such as Diego Martínez, and good teams like this Granada, which still have European possibilities after such a demanding course. A Granada that was planted in Sánchez Pizjuán with a defense of three centrals to alleviate the casualties of Vallejo and Domingos Duarte and that tried to make it difficult for Sevilla with strong forward pressure. Without Soldado or Machís, but with Luis Suárez and Puertas and six changes in their starting eleven, Granada intimidated Sevilla in a brilliant start. If Herrera hadn’t gone too strong in the jump over Acuña, Puertas’ goal would have gone up to the scoreboard. It happens, however, that Lopetegui’s team has plenty of resources to alter the fate of the games.

The nervousness of a first quarter of an hour very well worked by Granada soon dissipated. The resource to solve the visitor pressure was not a volleyball. It was a precise pass from Acuña to the gap that Ocampos took advantage of to outwit Nehuén and put her back in the area, where Papu Gómez broke into, which was run over by Gonalons. The penalty was transformed by Rakitic, specialist ahead of Ocampos after his mistakes against Barcelona and Atlético. The game entered another dimension, with a Sevilla that took control of the ball to begin a symphony of passes that found in Papu himself the perfect vertex to find depth. Suso and Ocampos were activated, Navas and Acuña took center stage in the bands and Granada felt in their flesh the weight of a great soccer team, dominating the ball and the game. It was De Jong, a surprising starter ahead of striker En-Nesyri, who had the best chance in a header that brushed the post of Rui Silva, then surely in a shot from Suso.

Granada came out bossy again in the second half, but Sevilla hit again when Diego Martínez’s team was better. A mischief from Papu was very well used by Ocampos to make it 2-0. Sevilla slowed down a bit and set about dominating the game. Granada, driven by the changes, faithfully sought at least one goal that would scare Sevilla. He found it after a hand from Acuña and a penalty goal from Soldado. With Germán as the center forward, Granada hung balls in search of an equalizer, until De Burgos Bengoechea whistled the end early. There was no game no matter how one more minute was played to the blush of players, technicians and television viewers.

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