Let's just call it a point well won. In a strange kind of a game, Betis scored in the first minute and were almost embarrassingly dominant for the opening quarter of an hour, before Athletic suddenly woke up and started playing some of the best football we've seen at the Villamarín all season. For large portions of the match thereafter the visitors were clearly the better side, but a bunch of missed chances and some fantastic Adrián saves kept the verdiblancos in it. The Betis players looked shattered in the last 10 minutes, which doesn't bode well for their Copa del Rey second leg on Thursday, and even without looking at the post-match quotes I can tell you Pepe Mel would have been the more relieved coach.
It's strange how often Betis seem to score too early at home. Tonight, it happened almost before the prematch confetti had floated to the ground, when Salva Sevilla latched on to a through ball and was upended on the edge of the area by Iraizoz, the Athletic keeper. Rubén Castro dispatched Betis's first penalty for almost a season and a half as though he gets them every week, and for 10 minutes or so Betis turned on the style, with a superconfident Joel Campbell acting as their tormentor-in-chief. But as so often happens, they failed to turn pressure and chances into goals and the momentum soon dissipated. Athletic dragged themselves back into the game, started getting good looks at Adrián's goal and before half-time had equalised, when Aduriz ran on to Herrera's nice pass and finished like a very good striker.
As far as the second-half was concerned, I think we have to give credit to Athletic for some dazzlingly quick passing movements - and offer thanks that they didn't do more with them. Betis countered when they could, and had a number of dangerous-looking set-pieces, but their half-chances mostly fell to a dispiritingly out-of-form Jorge Molina, and injuries to Mario, Salva Sevilla and Cañas prevented Pepe Mel from making any tactical substitutions. Beñat looked like he was trying much too hard to impress and conspicuously failed to do so, and overall, as Pepe Mel said of Atleti's Courtois last week, we probably have to admit that when your goalkeeper is clearly the man of the match it says something important about the balance of the game.
But looking on the bright side, a point is no less than Málaga managed at the weekend, and more than Levante and Valencia picked up. Plus, it's about time we saw a draw. Tonight's game was Pepe Mel's 100th league fixture in charge at Betis, of which just 18 have finished without a winner (typically around 30 per cent of professional football games finish tied). So let's be thankful for small mercies and get some rest, because we have to go through it all again on Thursday.
Betis: Adrián; Ángel, Amaya, Mario (Paulao, m. 47), Chica; Cañas (Rubén Pérez, m. 66), Beñat, Salva Sevilla (Nono, m. 38); Campbell, Rubén Castro, Jorge Molina.
Goals: 1-0, min.1: Rubén Castro; 1-1, m. 40: Aduriz