Elche CF 4 – 4 Gimnástic de Tarragona
…. By Kevin Rendall ….
Given their feeble capitulation last week away to Alcorcón and the inexplicable decision by the club board to support Javier Tebas – the man responsible for their ‘administrative relegation’ from La Liga – in his re-election campaign, Elche CF as an organisation owed their fans big time.
Once again, though, they let them down. Big time. 3-1 to the good against modest opposition Elche were forced to come from behind to scrounge a point.
Dismal defending gifted visitor Alejandro the opener after twelve minutes as he exploited the wide-open spaces in the Elche back four. Going behind was tough on the home side who had begun the game brightly but they were soon on terms and then ahead.
Half chances and headers are meat and drink to veteran striker Nino. At 36 and nine matches in he’s already repaid the adulation of the Elche faithful, many of whom are too young to remember his first stint at the club a decade ago.
A smart shot on the turn and an easy header, he’s a poacher don’t forget, saw Elche head into the interval with their early deficit cancelled out and nursing a slender lead. It could easily have been far better; Hervías down the left and Pedro down the opposite flank were already testing Nástic who haven’t enjoyed the best start to their season. Second bottom ahead of kick-off attested to that. Survive they did, though, as they disappeared for the break just one behind having scored first.
An exquisite Javier Matilla free-kick put Elche 3-1 ahead a quarter of an hour or so into the second half and, playing as well as this, hopes were high of even more. Step forward, then, Asturian referee Pablo González Fuertes who spent the next thirty odd minutes clinging to the wreckage of a football match he himself had driven onto the rocks. Pedro’s high elbow protecting his face from a driven Tejera free-kick earned Nástic a penalty goalkeeper Juan Carlos was unlucky not to keep out as the visitors somewhat fortuitously pulled one back.
The penalty should only have been an annoying setback but it proved anything but as comedy club defending saw Gimnástic first get on terms and then pull ahead for the second time in the match. Elche were better, considerably better, than their opponents who resorted to niggling, mostly unpunished or ignored, fouls to keep their hosts at bay.
A fractious final fifteen minutes included an excellent Albert Dorca equalizing goal from long range, perhaps the pick of the lot, and then red cards for Elche’s Matilla and Iago Bouzón for the visitors.
So inept was the later performance of Mr Gonzalez, two of the Elche technical staff were also dismissed for telling him so. Clear fouls were either tolerated or deemed unworthy of punishment, the upshot of which simply invited more of the same as Nástic’s defenders tested the increasingly weak referee’s patience.
Come the finish, Elche were the only side who appeared to be trying to win it. Having said that, given the clear fragility of their defence, a Gimnástic winner right at the death would probably have surprised no-one.
On this evidence, Elche will struggle to attract three thousand to the Martínez Valero for the mid-week visit of Alcorcón in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday evening.