Vigo victory and vindication

You can say a lot about Luis Enrique Martínez as a Coach. But don’t ever question his commitment to his vision of how the game should be played.

It’s been a long ride for Celta and their supporters. The season had opened so brightly for the Vigo club. They were unfortunate not to beat Espanyol on the opening day at Balaidos and emerged victorious at Betis when that was still ranked as an achievement worth celebrating.

Certainly the Press were getting giddy ahead of their clash with Granada in Week 3. Faro de Vigo noted the intensity of their training and their manager’s attention to detail, casting complimentary comparisons with his mentor Louis van Gaal.

But that was the game where we saw what would become a worrying pattern crystallise. For all their attractive and vigorous play, the Galicians failed to take countless chances and were caught by a sucker punch to drop two points for an eventual 1-1 draw.

Certainly, Lucas Alcaraz admitted as much after the game in Press hall. As for Enrique, he found positives despite the disappointment which he was keen to dwell on.

“We’re on the right road with the right attitude, and I can’t fault my players”, the former Spain international began. “If we keep playing like this, we’ll win more than we lose”.

But in the two months that followed, there were no more wins. Going into Saturday’s trip to La Rosaleda, they’d lost five of the previous six.

And to cap it all off, they’d been undone again the Monday before against a Levante side who they’d dominated but failed to put to the sword.

But Luis Enrique has never wavered. Clearly, his time at Roma taught us that he’s not another Pep Guardiola, such a precocious Coach that he was ready to enter at the game top rung. Serie A is not La Liga, and Rome is a city with pressures that are probably unique this side of the River Plate. They were too great for the Asturian, and he resigned just 12 months into a three-year deal.

However, he had a point on that balmy August night. And that point stood true even as the results kept going against his team. On Saturday, it all came together in a perfect storm. All that pent up frustration was released against what was, it must be noted, naive opponents. But it was a win that had been long in the making.

The scoreline was spectacular, and one which has given much satisfaction to the local Press who were starting to appear tetchy off the back of the previous run of results. But, after such a poor start to the season, marking Celta’s worst in 70 years, Saturday’s win answered it with their biggest victory on the road in the League in almost 75 years.

Now they face the daunting task of beating Barcelona at their own game.

“It’s the first time I’ve met them as a Coach, it’s going to be something different, something special. But I’ll live and die by my results. That’s what we’re all judged on.”

He’ll be joined in this novel experience by three other former ex-Azulgranas. Nolito, Andreu  Fontas and the on-loan Rafinha will also be faced with their first game against their former club.

Tata Martino, for his part, was clear on the task ahead of his team after their Clasico victory: “Celta are a team that have a very clear idea on how to play,” said the ex-Newell’s boss. “They won’t change. So it’s up to us to negate them.”

La Liga - Club News