Let's start at the end, shall we? After the final whistle Juan Carlos Garrido and his players remained in the centre circle, not speaking, their body language expressing nothing but anguish and tiredness, for a full 10 minutes after the celebrating Almería players had departed the field. At first all they got in return was wave after wave of whistles and abuse and from the Betis fans who'd stayed behind, which obviously made for some uncomfortable moments, but gradually there was a subtle change in mood and by the time the players were urged by their new coach to approach first Gol Sur, then Fondo and finally Gol Norte, the vast majority of the crowd were applauding them - respectfully, if not quite warmly. A cry of "Sí, se puede! Sí, se puede!" (Yes, we can) went up, and then the Himno del Betis, and Oé Mucho Beti-é. It's hard to know exactly what Garrido's intentions were, but personally I thought the idea worked. Some sort of boil was lanced, if that's not too disgusting a metaphor. Healing took place, to some degree at least.
Of course, we'd all rather have the three points, but today that simply wasn't to be. While a few of the last eight defeats have been embarrassing and others have been painful, this one was just plain unlucky. A freak goal against, the woodwork (again), an inspired goalkeeeper, an injury to the home team's dangerous forward, and several physics-defying bounces all conspired to give the win to an Almería side who did, it has to be admitted, defend very well. The Betis players ran their hearts out, attacked intelligently and, cheered on by a notably supportive crowd, mostly gave an impression of a half-decent football team. But the ball just wouldn't go in.
The winner came as early as the 4th minute, when a long-range shot from Ramón Azeez took exactly the right amount of slight deflection off Paulao's back to send it spinning into Sara's net. Cruel doesn't begin to describe it. From there on in Betis, who started with a more-daring-than-usual 4-4-2 formation, dominated the play and continually managed to get their wingers behind the Almería full backs, but the crosses either eluded Molina and Rubén Castro by a whisker or the defenders managed to scramble the ball away. Juan Carlos grazed the crossbar with a fierce shot in the first half, Rubén scored from a marginally offside position in the second, and an almighty goalmouth scramble ended up with the ball ricocheting off Jorge Molina's shin and over the bar from about five yards out. Even when Álvaro Vadillo, who was a genuine threat on both wings, limped off with a nasty-looking hamstring injury just after half-time, Juanfran came on and did a fair job of stretching the play down the right. A point was the least the home side deserved.
On the other hand, it could also have been worse. About halfway through the second half, a rapid Almería breakaway ended up with Óscar Díaz only needing to tap the ball into the net to finish the game off. Somehow, though, he managed to lift his shot over the bar from what seemed like point-blank range. "Stosic, sign him up!" sang the Betis crowd within moments, in reference to the club's under-fire sporting director. I think they call it laughing through the pain.
Betis: Sara; Chica (Nono, m. 73), Paulao, Jordi, Dídac; Vadillo (Juanfran, m.49, Lolo Reyes (Salva Sevilla, m. 73), Matilla, Juan Carlos; Rubén Castro, Jorge Molia.
Goal: 0-1: m. 4: Azeez.