Monday, September 27, 2010

Hercules 2-0 Sevilla: Another Herculean achievement in La Liga

I don’t know about you, but whenever I’ve watched the Primera Liga from Spain, I’ve tended to concentrate on Real Madrid and Barcelona.

My focus has, however, recently switched to newly promoted Hercules.

Hercules hail from Alicante and their beautiful 30,000-capacity Joso Rico Perez stadium is a top-notch venue.

And, since being promoted to the top flight at the end of last season after 13 years in the second tier, they have been playing some tactically astute, technically sound and easy-on-the-eye football.

A couple of weeks ago, they taught Barcelona a lesson by beating them 2-0 away in the latter’s Nou Camp fortress. It wasn’t down to luck. It was a fully deserved victory. In fact, it was only brilliant goalkeeping by Victor Valdes that prevented Hercules from winning by 5 or 6 nil.

They were certainly on the back foot for long spells as Barcelona engaged in their passing rituals. But, the passing by the hosts was ineffective.

Hercules mounted brilliant counter-attacks, characterised by great technique and skill rather than hit-or-miss long balls and a reliance on luck. They scored two first-class goals and the Nou Camp was silenced. The Hercules coach, Esteban Vigo, a former Barcelona player, had outwitted his highly successful counterpart, Josep Guardiola, also a former player with Barcelona.

It was the third time in a row that Hercules had downed the Calatan giants. The previous time was in 1997, when Hercules was last in the Primera Liga, and they won 3-0 in the Nou Camp.

‘Bring on Real Madrid,’ is what I am thinking.

Hercules beat another leading club, Sevilla, 2-0 this morning [Australian Eastern Standard Time] to move into 8th spot on the ladder, while Sevilla dropped to 7th place.

It was another accomplished and effective performance from a side that everyone was thinking would surely suffer the same fate as many newly promoted clubs in Europe these days - relegation after just one season in the top flight.

Their goalkeeper, Juan Calatayud, 30, was again in outstanding form, denying Sevilla’s Lautaro Acosta in the 5th minute and Romaric, from a free-kick, in the 48th minute.

Romaric came close with another free-kick in the 56th minute which had Calatayud beaten but which hit the base of the right-hand post and went out of play.

Poor finishing also made things tough for Sevilla in this away match. Alvaro Negredo missed from inside the box in the 66th minute after Luis Fabiano had played the ball back into his path, while Romaric fired wide with a snap-shot in the 78th minute.

But, the Herculean task of beating the much-vaunted visitors was made easier by the talent at coach Vigo’s disposal.

Apart from the goalkeeper, on the left they had the dynamic and hugely skilled Dutchman, Royston Drenthe. Ignored at Real Madrid after being bought from Feyenoord in 2007 and subsequently sent out on loan to Hercules, he was a star of The Netherlands Under-20 World Cup side. He has had a massive impact on this Hercules team and is adored by the fans. Throughout this game, hundreds of youngsters, arms outstretched, bowed in homage to the Dutchman every time he came near to the touchline where they were congregated.

He teased and tormented his markers and created the second goal with a supreme piece of skill and improvisation that made Ronaldo’s tricks look ordinary. Instead of step-overs a la Ronaldo, he rolls the ball this way and that with the sole of his boot before unbalancing his opponent and sprinting away from a standing start.

And then there is David Trezuguet, the Frenchman signed this season from Juventus. He scored both goals in this match and should have had a hat-trick.

Hercules took the lead in the 21st minute through a penalty, awarded for Didier Zakora’s foul on Tiago Gomes. Trezuguet dispatched the spot-kick with ease to goalkeeper Andres Palop’s left.

In the 38th minute, it was 2-0 from a beautifully crafted and well-executed goal. The ball was played wide to the left from midfield and the stoutly-built Drenthe did his work. He beat his marker through trickery and acceleration and crossed the ball from the byline to the far right-hand side of the box, where Kiko Femenia’s shot at goal was turned in by Trezuguet.

Twelve minutes after the interval, Drenthe almost got onto the score-sheet when his dangerous free-kick was almost deflected into the net.

In the 62nd minute, Kiko and David Cortes combined on the right to set up Trezuguet for his hat-trick, but the Frenchman side-footed the ball over the bar.

Sevilla made several substitutions in an attempt to retrieve the situation, but there was just no way back against a disciplined side well-marshalled at the back by, amongst others, central defender Abraham Paz.

As I said earlier in this article, bring on Real Madrid.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

drenthe and van der vaart following in sneijder and robben's footsteps in thriving after leaving real madrid!