A game that concluded almost 22 hours after it kicked off. A game that started with a raucous atmosphere and ended in silence. A game which was so much more than a game, and has taken up the headlines even through to Tuesday morning. But, crucially, a game which Real Betis won.
Saturday night’s El Gran Derbi in Seville was marred by the scenes of violence from one idiotic fan who single-handedly ruined the occasion for the hundreds of thousands of people watching from all over the world, and it’s done Betis the injustice of not earning the praise they deserved.
On the field, focussing on the 22 men chasing a football, the real essence of the derby, the Verdiblancos were simply outstanding.
Sure, it’s true that Sevilla were missing some key players, and Alfonso Pastor in goal was the most evident drop from their usual standards, but this was a stellar display from the hosts. In the 39 minutes before the original game was suspended, Sevilla managed only a single shot, and just happened to score.
Manuel Pellegrini had set up his team perfectly. Alex Moreno and Hector Bellerin nullified Sevilla’s wingers, keeping Lucas Ocampos silent, and forcing Papu Gomez into central roles to search for any sniff of a chance.
In midfield, William Carvalho produced what many have labelled his best performance in a Real Betis shirt, while Guido Rodriguez again stood out. Joan Jordan and Ivan Rakitic are certainly no pushovers in the middle of the park for Sevilla, but the Betis duo made it look easy to win the midfield battle.
Looking to the forward line, it’s clear to see why Betis find themselves in third place in La Liga as we enter the second half of the season. Sergio Canales, Nabil Fekir and Juanmi have been performing at a level this season that would put them up there with some of the very best attacking tridents in European football.
That two of the trio scored for Betis, both in incredible style with a goal direct from a corner from Fekir on Saturday, and with delightful composure from Canales on Sunday, is only testament to their importance to this side.
Sevilla, an elite side on both a national and international level, were rattled by Betis. This Gran Derbi had more quality, more desire and more talent on show than any in recent history. Sevilla may have won six Europa League titles, a European Super Cup and a Copa del Rey since Betis last won a major trophy, but anyone would’ve thought that it was Betis who were the proven winners. Their mentality, confidence and sheer bravado, driven by the roar of the home crowd, set the tone and allowed them to pin Sevilla back.
Regardless of any other circumstances, Betis had Sevilla beaten in this Gran Derbi right from the off. Julen Lopetegui’s post-match rants were of course symbolic of a man who felt he had witness injustice. But through it all he was adamant that he wanted to congratulate Betis. And it was the least he could do. Betis had beaten him, and his Sevilla team, in every aspect of the game, and have proven that they are a force to be reckoned with once more.