Almost as predictable as Betis winning away this season have been the opposition coaches' complaints that they didn't deserve to. And Zaragoza's Manolo Jiménez - Sevillista to his fingertips - was no exception. "The defeat wasn't fair," he said after Friday's game. "It just came down to clear individual errors."
That's pretty illogical, of course - don't mistakes count, then? - so let's leave it to Pepe Mel to make some sense. "Victories are victories, I don't care how or where they come," was his verdict. "It was a very tactical match, with not many chances, but we took the only one we had in the first half and that changed the game. After that we were able to press on and take advantage of the space that opened up and we had plenty of chances to finish the game off." Or, to put it another way, Plan A worked to perfection. Betis have finished the first half of the season with 19 points away from home - more than any other side apart from Barcelona and a full six points more than Real Madrid.
Some more brief points arising from Friday's game...
l Once again the victory was built on solid defence, with the whole back four - Chica, Amaya, Mario and Nacho - earning rave reviews in the Seville press and on Betis fans' websites. Antonio Amaya is fast become a particular favourite for his no-nonsense style and an unstarry backstory that seems to make him ideal for this Betis squad. Aged 29, he's spent most of his career in Segunda with Rayo Vallecano, apart from an unsuccessful stint at Wigan who never really gave him a chance to show what he can do. He came into the side as a fifth-choice centre-back when injuries to Paulao, Perquis and Mario left Pepe Mel no option, and has been absolutely stellar ever since. Now the Betis coach doesn't dare leave him out. "This is the happiest I've been in my whole career," said Amaya yesterday. "I've played in Segunda B, in Segunda and in England but I've never had the confidence I have now, playing for the team in fifth place in the best league in the world. On top of that, Seville is a brilliant place to live and to be able to bring up my kids. And as for Betis - from the outside it seems like a nice team, but when you actually get here you see how incredible the club is."
If you'd said three months ago that Paulao wouldn't be able get in the team no-one would have believed you, but Amaya currently deserves his spot 100 per cent.
l Pepe Mel was also keen to single out Jorge Molina for special praise after his goal on Friday. "I'm really happy for him," he said. "He missed an important chance the other day against Mallorca and as soon as he came on he had another clear opportunity to score so I'm glad he kept going and kept the belief. In the last three years he's given us a lot, both in and out of the dressing room." You always get the impression that Mel, a big centre-forward himself in his playing days, feels a special connection with Molina, who's clearly a down-to-earth character and a dream to manage.
l The verdict is still very much out on young Nosa Igiebor, who didn't altogether impress playing mostly out-of-position on the left wing. (Although it's worth pointing out that Betis have won eight of the nine games he's played in this season.) But that's the last we'll see of him for a month or so as he's already left to join up with the Nigeria squad ahead of the African Cup of Nations, which starts in South Africa on January 19th. I'll try and let you know how he gets on.
l AS reported that scouts from Chelsea, Manchester City, Newcastle and Arsenal were in attendance on Friday to have a look at Beñat and Cañas, with the former a possible replacement for Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge apparently. €20million would take Beñat away right now, although I've also read that he would much rather stay in Spain than go abroad. Both are much more likely to leave in the summer than this month.
l Next up for Betis is Thursday's Copa del Rey second leg at home to Las Palmas (with the score at 1-1 after the first game). The cup isn't usually considered very important in Spain, but I get the feeling Betis really want to win this game, with the prize being a quarter-final against Atlético Madrid in the second half of this month. The 2012/13 verdiblancos have already shown they are capable of beating any side in Spain in a one-off game, so even winning the Copa del Rey is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
l Next league game is a week today against Levante, who won convincingly yesterday to stay hard on our heels in sixth, so that already looks a biggie. Beñat, who picked up his tenth yellow card of the season on Friday, will be suspended, but that does mean he'll probably play against Las Palmas. Málaga were obliging enough to lose at Deportivo last night, so Betis are now level on points with them (and still nine ahead of our city rivals, who yesterday scored late on to win for the first time since the derbi, bless 'em).
The coverline on yesterday's Estadio Deportivo reads "New year, old joys."