Elche CF 2 – 3 UD Almería (By Kevin Rendall)
Ahead of this match the local press and supporters alike billed the game as the proverbial six-pointer and that is exactly how it turned out. For Almería ! A fifth dismal Elche effort in six matches earnt the Ilicitanos exactly what they deserved; a fifth defeat in six outings. This feeble capitulation really was quite enough for Elche president Diego García and his colleagues on the board. The morning after they, collectively apparently, dispensed with the services of coach Alberto Toril and immediately replaced him with Elche B trainer Vicente Parras.
Parras now has six remaining matches in which to arrest the Elche slide – no, make that a free-fall – into the Segunda A División relegation zone. On the evidence of last Friday evening he has his work cut out, particularly in organising a back four, which irrespective of who is playing, simply cannot do the basics right. Almería were just the latest beneficiaries of Elche’s ongoing comedy of defensive errors.
A dipping left-foot Edu Albacar free-kick and spectacular Casto save were the highlights of yet another nondescript Elche first half. At the other end, former Elche forward Fidel whipped a pass in to the near post which Borja Fernández reacted quickest to and was able to steer the ball beyond Juan Carlos. That was how it stayed at the break but Elche were soon on terms. Pelayo got the final touch on Borja Valle cross to make it one apiece eight minutes after the restart. From then on normal Elche service was renewed.
For far too many times this season Elche have been unable to maintain parity after drawing level and today was no different. Less than ten minutes later, Almería were ahead again and it was a lead that was never to be seriously challenged. Five white shirts surrounded Ximo Navarro and he still managed to jab the ball in. He won’t care a jot how scruffy his goal was.
That, though, wasn’t the end of Elche’s woes. Four of them stood static, arms aloft appealing in vain for offside, as Jose Ángel Pozo fed Antonio Puertas. A simple square ball for Quique González was enough to put Elche and almost a thousand of their fans, all of whom upped and left, out of their misery.
The numbers, at this point, were simple. Elche were two behind with seventeen minutes remaining. From their opening intention of beating a direct, relegation rival the objective now became trying to salvage a point. They weren’t even able to fail gallantly in this endeavour. Substitute Dominique Malonga, hitherto a bit-part player under Toril, got the final touch on a long range Hervías free-kick to pull Elche back within one. His muted celebration as he trotted back said a lot about the resigned Elche psyche. Full-time 2-3.
Mediocre teams have come and gone from the Martínez Valero all season long and yet, somehow, Elche have made each of them look like Barcelona. They haven’t helped themselves and now new man Vicente Parras has somehow to bring president García’s hospital pass under control. Best of luck, Mister !