That was paiiiinful. Betis looked lethargic, clumsy and tactically confused this afternoon but somehow still managed to stumble to three points, thanks to a strange Rubén Castro goal on 67 minutes and a helpful linesman's erroneous decision to rule out a Celta goal for offside a little while later. Not that the visitors really deserved a point; unlike Deportivo a fortnight ago, Celta were fairly clueless and should have been dispatched much more comfortably than they were. As it was, we all had to endure half an hour of unnecessary sufrimiento before the three points could be counted safely, but with Getafe and Rayo both losing earlier this weekend, it's definitely true that Betis are now very well placed in the race for Europe. Defeat for Sevilla at Málaga tonight would just be the icing on a rather fortunate cake.
I've learned that when in the first quarter of an hour it looks like only a matter of time before Betis score, this usually means that the goal will actually be a long time coming. And so it was this afternoon. The home side had two early goals narrowly ruled out for offside in the first few minutes, and with Nosa looking a real handful in the hole between Beñat and Rubén Castro, it was easy to assume that the opener was only around the corner. But the mid-30s heat seemed to tell very early on, and both sides' lack of energy made for a dull first half overall. Rubén Castro and Juan Carlos both had clear sights of Javi Varas's goal, and Adrián was called upon to make one very sharp save from Iago Aspa, but it was scoreless at half-time and deservedly so.
The first real incident of the second period was the early substitution of Nosa, who was so far and away Betis's most dangerous player that one has to assume his longstanding pelvic problems were giving him trouble. If nothing else, Nosa, who today showed some of that powerful running with the ball we saw on the YouTube videos before the season started, has certainly given us something to get excited about for next season.
But his loss was no gain for Betis, who still struggled to hit top gear. For once Rubén Castro and Dorlan Pabón struggled to make contact with each other, and the replacement of a listless Juan Carlos by Álvaro Vadillo didn't improve things on the other flank, either. Things just weren't happening.
And then Rubén Castro scored and at least we had the lead. Javi Chica played a simple pass down the right wing to Forlan Pabón, who realised he was in an offside position and stepped away from the ball, allowing Chica to continue his run and whip in a nice, but clearable cross. For some reason, however, a Celta defender slipped when about to head clear, and ended up ducking instead. Rubén just had to make contact to put the ball past Vargas and give the 38,500 present something to cheer about at last.
In theory, that should have been the cue for some lethal Betis counterattacking football, but too many wrong decisions and inexact passing meant that several decent positions were wasted, while Celta were allowed to make several proper chances of their own, including an "offside" Tuñez goal that every report says was perfectly legal. In the end, Betis - and their fans - were begging the ref to blow his damn whistle, which, eventually, he did. It hadn't been pretty, but we'll take it.
Betis: Adrián; Chica, Mario (Paulao, m.70), Amaya, Nacho; Rubén Pérez, Beñat, Nosa (Salva Sevilla, m. 54); Rubén Castro, Juan Carlos (Vadillo, m. 58) y Pabón.
Goal: 1-0, m. 67 , Rubén Castro.