It's been quite a week for Real Betis.
Last Sunday, they suffered a monumental embarrassment, as they were swept aside by local rivals Sevilla. A 5-1 defeat at the hands of their city neighbours marked a new low for Betis since their return to La Liga.
After the crushing loss, the team were subjected to angry chants from fans at the training ground, as certain players were picked out for abuse. Coach Pepe Mel refused to close training to the public however.
“We had to endure the downpour,” he said later. “It had to be experienced because so many people had put their hopes in us and we failed.”
The last thing Los Verdiblancos needed was a visit from reigning La Liga champions Real Madrid. Requiring a win to keep their dwindling hopes of catching Barcelona alive, Madrid rolled into town on the back of seven victories in their last eight games, having conceding just five goals in the process and scoring a whopping 27.
It was a daunting task ahead, and boss Mel even admitted that a win over Los Blancos might be enough to satisfy a fanbase hurt by the loss to Sevilla.
“I don’t think the Beticos will forgive us even if we win against Madrid."
But how wrong he was.
In front of a crowd looking for a response to that crushing defeat, Mel’s men delivered. Their 1-0 win over Jose Mourinho's side came thanks to a goal by Spanish international Benat Extebarria - who continues to enhance his reputation despite reports suggesting he may be sold soon.
Of course, the win didn't come without a slice of luck here and there. Karim Benzema had two goals harshly ruled out for offside, which Mourinho was evidently angry about after the game. But the Betis fans won't care one iota.
The win now puts their side just four points behind Madrid, and after two painful seasons in La Segunda, Betis are now looking up and tentatively aiming for a place in Europe. Their initial goal will be to achieve survival, with this being only their second season back in La Liga, but with an 11 point gap already opened up between themselves and the drop zone, they certainly have the opportunity to kick on for a top six finish.
Of course, their aspirations are led by Mel, who was steadied the ship after a turbulent few years at the Estadio Benito Villamarin.
If anyone has the drive to take this team forward, it's him. He has brought a team together that has the ability both to excite and to develop into an established top flight side. Mel actually made 112 appearances for Betis as a striker during the late eighties and early nineties, and his commitment and passion for the club shines through during Press conferences.
“The past is the past, let’s not talk about the derby,” the tactician stated after Saturday’s famous win.
And the fans might just echo those sentiments now.
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