Paul Murray´s Match Report – Fix.3

Betis Real Sociedad

Overall another disappointing performance from La Reala against an initially confident Betis team. We started very slowly and were constantly pushed back by the energetic Betis midfield.  Newly returned from Fiorentina and after 9 years away from his home club Joaquin showed his class and experience, dragging De la Bella wide to the touch line and often beating him.

Our forwards hardly touched the ball for the first 20 minutes, with no cohesion between the our front line and the midfield.  De la Bella got booked in the 19th minute and Joaquin continued to torture him for the remainder of the half.

On the half hour we finally started to get into the match gaining possession across the central midfield area. Illarra was seeing more of the ball and Bruma who appeared to be allowed to play in a free role was wandering all over the pitch. His lack of positional discipline meant that our attack became disjointed with the midfield players losing contact with the forwards.

Pardo still takes few chances with the ball preferring to pass short and square to a team mate.  But this is Illarra’s domain and he is better at it than Pardo.  We don’t need both of them playing in this style as it makes our midfield far too static.  Illarra’s partner must be the playmaker who positions himself 10-15 metres in front of him.  It is the playmakers job to pass the ball forward, spreading play to the wings and then to support the attack by pushing forward to the edge of the penalty area.  Pardo does not do this and his goal scoring record and even his shooting has been very poor throughout his first team career.

During an indifferent first half Xabi Prieto spent far too much time throwing himself to the floor which seems increasingly a major aspect of his game.  It offers nothing positive and just slows everything down.  He has always had a tendency to spend more time lying on the floor than an injured parachutist after a failed jump, and as he gets older this is unlikely to improve!

After absorbing substantial pressure from Betis, especially on our left flank, we conceded in the 41st minute following a great far post cross by Joaquin which was converted by Ruben Castro.   The veteran winger was allowed to cross without full back De la Bella putting him under any pressure as the defender did not want to get to close in case he beaten to the line.  However Joaquin cleverly used the space provided to pick out a perfect cross to the far post.  Betis striker Castro completely lost his marker (Aritz Elustondo) at the far post by getting behind him to head home. This highlighted Elustondo’s inexperience and the result was a match losing error after poor play by both of our full backs.

Mikel who was starting a match for the first time in ages looked very nervous in la Real’s central defence.  He punted the ball wildly forward on every opportunity just to clear it away from danger.  It showed a nervousness in his play that was predictable as he seems to have completely lost his confidence after a long injury prone spell.

As half time approached Betis had Petros sent off for getting a second yellow card after he clipped Vela.  Vela made the upmost of the contact but that is legitimate in the game these days.

Second half started with Moyes introducing Chory Castro in place of Prieto.   This was an unexpected but positive change which gave Real more width going forward.  So far this season Prieto really seems a shadow of the player he has been for us, contributing little positive in our attacking play.  I think his time as a first team starter is over and maybe his place should now be on the bench where he could still come on and make a difference.

We dominated the play for the entire second half but rarely forced Adan in the Betis goal to actually make a save.  With 20 minutes remaining Moyes introduced Agirretxe in place of the struggling De la Bella and this perked up our attacking options but he was still never given a decent pass to work with. Finally the ineffective Pardo was replaced by Sergio Canales but with only 9 minutes left this was too little too late.

Overall during the match we had 59% possession but only converted this into 3 shots on target and a miserly 4 corners.  There was plenty of effort but no creative quality from our midfield players who currently don’t look capable of producing any type of decisive final pass.

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