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Jornada 24: Espanyol vs. Real Betis; Cornella-El Prat
To coin an old cliché, football is a very funny game.
Another illustration of this took place at Cornella-El Prat on Sunday night as an Espanyol team, inflated with the confidence that not so long ago resided in Real Betis, took on Los Verdiblancos from Seville.
Since the appointment of Javier Aguirre - he replaced Mauricio Pochettino - Barcelona’s second team have been red hot. A defeat to Barcelona the only blot on a record which had seen Los Pericos draw at the Bernabeu and win four in a row at home.
On the other hand was Betis, struggling to score, let alone win, and seeing their post new year winning streak fade into the past faster than Steve Brookstein disappeared from the music industry. Remember him? Us neither.
Yet despite their faltering European hopes and lack of goals, Pepe Mel’s side still travelled to meet La Liga’s form side boasting the second best away record in La Liga after only Barcelona, it had the makings of an intriguing fixture.
And intriguing it looked set to be, Sergio Garcia spinning and firing home a controlled volley after just seven minutes looked like the perfect antidote to cheer up a game of late night Sunday football.
But it wasn’t. What followed was pretty much 83 minutes of evidence of when you’re in form, things work out OK. When you’re out of form, they probably won’t - that old adage of needing a bit of luck.
For all Betis’s possession they never really looked clinical. Beñat buzzed around like his usual self, but the honey that resulted in so much joy at the beginning of the season was not quite evident. His interpration of a Cristiano Ronaldo free kick was possibly the closest they came though.
Jorge Molina offered little as the front man, one miss at the far post was particularly excruciating, and Joel Campbell and Dorlan Pabon in the wide positions showed signs of their potential but little actual substance on the night.
On the Espanyol side of the coin, the most interesting thing about their results at home is that they seem to be winning games by just being better than they were in 2012, if not by looking completely brilliant.
Christian Stuani looks a different man, although it may not be him under that mask, and pretty much everything sticks to Sergio Garcia like it’s 2008 again. Aguirre has given Simao another chance in the side and their reliance on Joan Verdu - who’s likely to sign a new deal - has dropped dramatically.
By full time, Espanyol had extended their winning run to five straight matches at home and strengthened their position at the top of the form table. As for Betis they’re now without a win in five league matches and have failed to score in four.
It might not have been the game we anticipated, but it was probably the game we should have expected.
The good news for traveling Los Beticos fans - and there was a few of them in the corner - is that in football, another cliché means that all it takes it one bit of luck, one rub of the [Betis] green and they could be swapping form roles with Espanyol once again in the not too distant future.