Sometimes winning is all about, well, just winning. You might not play your best football, you might even have spells when you look frankly second rate... but if your best striker finds himself through on goal with 10 minutes to go and the scores level, that might just be enough.
And so it was tonight. On a pitch that was probably too wet for professional sport, at least for the first two-thirds of the game, Betis splashed around ineffectively for long spells but eventually, somehow, proved victorious. The three points take them level with Málaga in fourth (for now at least) and definitively banish any thoughts that qualification for Europe might just be a pipe dream.
Jorge Molina opened the scoring after 19 minutes with a smart header from a Joel Campbell cross, but the move leading up to the goal was about all the football that either side were able to manage between the puddles during the first half. By the time the second 45 minutes started, however, it seemed like the end Osasuna were now attacking had dried up considerably and this gave the visitors a big advantage as they pressed for the equaliser. With the Betis midfield reduced to pumping long balls towards Molina in a bid to bypass the worst of the standing water, Osasuna were gradually able to tighten the screw and they'd came close to scoring once or twice even before the 73rd minute, when a cross from the right was turned in comfortably by Silva. 1-1, and no-one could say it wasn't deserved.
But Pepe Mel being Pepe Mel saw this as an invitation to go all out for victory and threw on a striker (Dorlan Pabón) for a midfielder (Beñat), a decision that turned out to be uncannily (and brilliantly) prescient just three minutes later. Pabón latched on to a loose ball in midfield and threaded a firmly struck pass of Beñat-like ingenuity through the Osasuna defence into space. Rubén Castro, timing his run to perfection (if we're being generous to the linesman), had a five-yard head start on the pursuing defenders and slipped the ball past the goalkeeper before the latter even knew what was happening. To put it mildly, it's good to have our No.24 back.
The final minutes were all a bit of a mess, with an ice-hockey-style bodycharge on Pabón that should have seen Osasuna's Arribas sent off (but didn't) and a slightly mistimed tackle by Silva on Molina that probably wasn't worth a red card (but got one). In the end, the boys in green and white just about held on, and have now surpassed the magic figure of 42 points that are supposed to be enough to guarantee Primera football for another year. Not that we've contemplated relegation for a while now; no, your Real Betis Balompié have long since had altogether bigger fish to fry.
Betis: Adrián; Ángel, Paulao, Amaya, Nacho; Campbell (Nono, min. 63), Cañas, Beñat (Pabón, min. 77) (Fausto Tienza, min. 85), Juan Carlos; Rubén Castro y Jorge Molina.
Goals: 1-0: Jorge Molina, min. 19. 1-1: Silva, min. 73. 2-1: Rubén Castro, min. 80.