Barcelona come to town

On Sunday it was back to the Atahaulpa Stadium to watch the current champions : Deportivo Quito against the champions elect: Barcelona.

Although i arrived with my friend at the stadium 15 mins before the game it took at least half an hour to get into the Atahaulpa. Long lines were snaked around the ground with the police doing their disorganised best to slowly, filter the throngs throw the narrow, turnstiles. One gate was for blue and red bedecked fans of Deportivo the others for the vast amount of yellow, Barcelona” hinchas”.

Only when Barcelona had scored and the many fans became restlessness did the police and authorities begin to shepherd the fans through at a acceptable rate.

Barcelona enjoy a huge support in both in Quito and Guayaquil and are probably only matched in popularity with Liga de Quito. Although the base of support is in Ecuador’s biggest city they can count on supporters from all over the country.

In much the same way Rangers and Celtic  attract fans from all over Scotland, Barcelona and Liga gather the most fans from all over Ecuador.

In recent years the Quito teams have dominated league titles with Deportivo Quito, El Nacional and Liga sharing 9 titles between them. You have to go back to 1997 for Barcelona’s last title although city rivals Emelec did win the title in 2001 and 2002.

Upon entering the stadium it was clear that the Deportivo Quito fans or “chullas” were totally outnumbered by about 4-1. The yellow and black of Barcelona covered 70 % of the stadium and with their team already 1-0 up to a Nina header they were in fine voice.

Deportivo had only the main stand to fill and numbered around 6-7,000 but as their were some spare rows of seats the police began to funnel some yellow and black fans into the Deportivo end. This did not go down well with hardcore members at the front and they immediately rushed to confront to the opposition, forcing them back into the Barcelona section. A few bottles were thrown and insults traded but in truth it was little more than handbags from very, young looking “hooligans”. The riot police and their batons and Alsatians seemed to dampen their enthusiasm.

nI such an atmosphere it’s sometimes difficult to concentrate on the match, especially when you know Deportivo are so poor in front of goal and have little chance of  scoring but the game ebbed and flowed with Barcelona seemingly content to let Deportivo attack.

Luckily, again we had the benefit of enthusiastic beer vendors  and police were happy to let us stand at the back and peer over the crowd.

Much has been made in the Ecuadorian media about the country’s hooligan problem but in the 20-30 matches i have attended here in Quito I have yet to see some trouble bar the throwing of plastic bottles or the odd plastic beer cup. It’s certainly no where near the levels that the UK or Europe had but i guess it doesn’t take much for things to get out of hand. The police were very aware of the threat and quick to intervene.

The only kerfuffle in the terraces today happened in the Barcelona hoards in the south stand. A yellow shirted youth (my friend was convinced it was a girl but not I) was thrown around like a rag doll and unceremoniously booted and punched through throngs of people and out of the exit. It was unclear what he had done to deserve this treatment but it must have been bad as his own brethren turned on him. The police pounced on him and escorted him away.

In the end Barcelona won two nil, thanks to; some dreadful refereeing decisions, two Deportivo red cards, some dreadful Deportivo forward play and a wonderful free kick form Michael Arroyo in the 90th minute (who in turn was strangely red-carded).

The Barcelona fans were ecstatic at the end, knowing they had all but secured their first title in 15 years while the Deportivo Quito fans solemnly shuffled out of the Atahaulpa. A feeling they have known all to well in a disastrous season.

 

Barcelona on the brink of Championship

Barcelona all but sealed the Segunda Etape title (and overall championship) with a lucky win against Deportivo Quito yesterday.

They took the lead through a Narcisso Mina header in the 13th minute then seemed happy to sit back and let Deportivo control the game. However it quickly became clear that Deportivo were not going to score especially when they lost Paredes to a second yellow and Morales to a straight red in the second half.

Deportivo were finally punished for their profligacy in front of goal when Arroyo sealed the win with a fine 30 yard free kick in 90 minutes.

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Elsewhere, Emelec confirmed their involvement in next years Copa Libertadores by winning 2-1 at home against El Nacional while Olmedo cemented their relegation to Segunda B after another home loss, this time to Deportivo Cuenca.

Independiente recorded a fine win against Liga de Quito. A Daniel Angulo strike in 57 minutes was enough to grab 3 points and continue their push for a Libertadores spot. The team from Sangloqui are universally recognised as the best youngsters in Ecuador and it remains to be seen how many of their players they can retain for next season, especially with their links to Spurs and the bigger Ecuadorian teams circling

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The final places are calculated over the two “etapes” or stages and as Barcelona should win both their will not be a final play-off match this year.

With two teams to be relegated to the Segunda B El Nacional, Macara or Ted de Universitario may yet join Olmedo and drop down a division. This would be particularly disastrous who are an historic giant of Ecuadorian football with a record equaling 13 championships.

 

With two games left to play it should be a a tight end to the bottom of the Serie A.

Cumulative Standings
Team P W D L Pts GD
1. Barcelona
41 21 13 7 76 +37
2. Emelec
40 21 7 12 70 +20
3. Indepndiente del Valle
41 17 11 13 62 +4
4. Liga de Quito
41 14 18 9 60 +11
5. Deportivo Cuenca   41 17 8 16 59 -5
6. Liga de Loja
41 15 13 13 58 +4
7. Deportivo Quito  

 

40 13 14 13 53 +8
8. Manta FC

 

41 14 11 16 53 +2
9. El Nacional

 

41 12 13 16 49 -13
10. Macara

 

41 13 7 21 46 -18
11. Tec de Universitario

 

41 11 13 17 46 -19
12. Olmedo  

 

41 9 8 24 35 -31

Sixto out, Gustavo in

True to form Sixto Vizuete was given the heave-ho today after barely 6 months in charge of El Nacional.

To be fair he can have little complaint as his team have been consistently awful under his charge and are in serious threat of being one of the two teams relegated from the Serie A.

El Nacional is the army team of Ecuador and similar Athletic Bilboa and Chivas Guadalajara they only pick players from their respective countries/states. Obviously the suits upstairs have panicked after the latest defeat and opted to bring a fresh face.

 

They have pinched Gustavo Luis Soler from Deportivo Quito, an Argentinian with a solid playing career in Spain and Argentina behind him and a slew of coaching positions around South America.

His task will be to keep El Nacional in the top division and avoid disastrous relegation/ 

The Palco experience

Yesterday I paid ten extra dollars to watch the Quito derby from the “Palco” section of the Atahaulpa. The reason was two fold: the ability to sit undercover and so avoid the 5-8 pm daily downpour and also to experience the “behind the bench” fans.

Typically, it didn’t rain a drop so my $10 was wasted in the first respect (on Sunday I saved my money but third degree burns to my knees, arms and face) but the fan entertainment was hilarious and strangely familiar.

The Palco section is usually half-filled with various club officials,tracksuit suited staff, players wives and businessmen but the real characters are the old Waldorf and Stadler like pundits eager to offer advice and abuse with gusto.

In front of me were a group of silver haired darlings either giggling at their own jokes or roaring expletives at their players.

Now my Spanish is by no means fluent but even a beginner could decipher and understand the general “craic” and this was because the behaviour and language (but in Espanol) is exactly the same as in Scotland. 

The last game I a went to in Scotland before leaving was St Johnstone vs Rangers in the McDiarmid Stadium, Perth. Thinking the game would be a sell-out I bought my tickets 3 days before so not to be disappointed. As a result I got tickets for the main stand, just behind the dug-outs, right among the local heroes. 

For 90 minutes I had to listen to a selection of bawling donkeys, droning on to the Saints manager, Steve Lomas and because of  the proximity of fans to dugout these aged experts were clearly in Lomas’s earshot. In the end Lomas actually responded, only encouraging the muppets. It wouldn’t of been too bad if the various shouts were witty or funny but it was just noise. Like a farmer shouting at his cows.

It was similar in the Atahaulpa last night but two things were different:

Firstly, as the dug-outs are separated by an “Olympic running track, long jump pit and 10 metres of concrete from the fans unless you have the roar of a lion the managers will never hear you. As result any pleas or offers of advice are totally futile.  Dog barking at the moon.

Second, the abuse leveled at the players or management is much stronger and un-pc than back home. The cries of “Chuta Madre, Puta, hija de la chingada” etc(and not to mention the “negrito” chant) would get you arrested back home but in Ecuadorian games it’s quite the norm.

Because the Palco area is mixed part of the stadium their was choice banter exchanged between the fans, sometimes only rows apart. Surprisingly neither side took the bait nor rose to the occasion. Several times the old geezers openly berated and mocked much younger fans behind them.

Maybe alike Scotland the younger fans accepted their seniors were merely old, loud mouths quite entitled to their opinions and not worth the hassle.

Much the same opinion I have of the old bawlers back home. 

 

El Nacional vs Deportivo Quito: Wednesday night Derby

After watching Celtic’s historic defeat of Barcelona on TV  the Quito derby was always going to be an anti-climax. The atmosphere in Celtic Park couldn’t have been more different from Ecuador’s national stadium.

                                                                                      
The Deportivo Quito’s supporters outnumbered the Nacional” hinchas” by at least double but both of the hardcore members were making a suitable racket under their banners and flags.The match had been re-arranged from week 9 due to Deportivo’s participation in the Copa Sudamericana and the World Cup qualifiers. A 6 o’clock Wednesday start was never going to attract a big crowd, especially considering the from of both teams but as I took my seat in the “Palco” section (i was expecting the customary 6 o’clock downpour) I watched a few thousand began to file their way in.

As both teams play their home games in the Atahaulpa Stadium there was no real advantage for either team.

Alike many Latin American stadiums the players and coaching staff appear from below the pitch-side and move to their respective technical areas.

Coaches and managers in Ecuador change like the weather. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep apace, especially when 3-4 months seems to be the average managerial term and tonight’s men were no different.

Deportivo Quito’s coach is former Argentinian national player (5 caps), Ruben Insua who replaced Nelson Acosta in August. After a solid playing career in Argentina and Ecuador (Barcelona) Insua has taken coaching jobs around Latin America enjoying Serie A success with Barcelona and Deportivo and a Copa Sudamericana with San Lorenzo of Argentina.

El Nacional have former Ecuadorian national coach, Sixto Vizuete currently in charge. After an inauspicious playing career Vizuete rose to the national team job through the youth teams in more of an academic Jose Mourinho/ Gerard Houllier fashion.

Tonight Insua was decked out in a smart suit and long Italian style coat. Together with a long main of hair he looked like a cross between David Coverdale and Benedict Cumberbatch. Sixto however had a standard tracksuit and coach jacket combo, more in the style of Paul Lambert or Martin O’Neill.

The game started at a snail’s pace and didn’t let up for the whole 90 minutes. Quito largely controlled the match in the first half through Luis Saritama and Santiago Morales in midfield. Julio Bevacqua was at his mercurial best and attracting the ire of the Quito support after several fluffed chances while Paredes was as normal dynamic but his final ball was consistently poor.

El Nacional fared no better and seemed content to try long shots from far outside the area which usually sailed high into the stars. In 33rd minute Nacional conjured up the first good chance of the match when Dennis Quinonez crossed onto Flavio Caicedo’s head but goalkeeper, Bone did well to tip the ball round the post.

The game then got bogged down in midfield with petty fouls and pseudo-injuries slowing play down. In the 46th minute Bevacqua rose just outside the 6 year the like a salmon to head into the keepers hands. Needless to say his fans were neither impressed nor surprised.

As the match sneaked towards half-time Morales produced a wonderful piece of skill and set up the opening goal. On the left wing and under the attention of two defenders he back-heeled a through ball to the on-running Luis Congo who then smashed the ball past high into the net from the edge of the box. The fans cried “goallazo”and rightly so. It was a fine moment to round up a rotten first half.

El Nacional were out on the pitch 5 minutes before their Quito obviously with a bollocking from Sixto still in their ear and they began the half with greater intensity. The short length of the Atahaulpa pitch means goal keeper kicks stretch far into the opposition half and this can quickly converts defence into attack. A hefty Danny Cabezas boot did exactly this 5 minutes in laying on Pita who only blasted wide.

For the first 15 minutes Quito seemed happy to sit deep and invite Nacional onto them,( a dangerous ploy which has bitten them on the arse many times this season). At times their crowding of attackers and last ditch clearances were manic and tempted disaster but there was method in their madness as two of their counter attacks produced good chances where only the Nacional woodwork prevented a doubling of their lead.

Twice in 5 minutes Edmund Zura was through on goal with only with only the keeper to beat. Luckily Bone was quick off his line to narrow the angle and smother the fierce shots.

In injury time again Zura was put through but this time he chose to dive and claim a penalty. There was much confusion as the linesman waved for the penalty but the referee then overruled and waved away the protests of the Nacional players. In the end Quito ran out close but deserved winners.

The result little effects either of the teams position in the table, both have had dreadful seasons although relegation is not a real threat points are accumulated and totaled over two terms.

Team P W D L Pts GD
1. Barcelona
16 8 5 3 29 +14
2. Emelec
15 8 3 4 27 +4
3. Técnico Universitario
17 7 6 4 27 -1
4. Liga de Quito
17 6 8 3 26 +3
5. Macará
17 8 1 8 25 -1
6. Manta F.C.
16 6 4 6 22 0
7. Olmedo
17 5 6 6 21 +2
8. Deportivo Cuenca
17 5 4 8 19 -5
9. Independiente del Valle
16 5 4 7 19 -6
10. Deportivo Quito
15 4 6 5 18 -3
11. El Nacional
16 3 8 5 17 -1
12. Liga de Loja
17 3 5 9 14 -6

Ecuadorian teams hopeful in the Sudamericana

The Ecuadorian teams had a mixed bag in the first leg ties of last weeks Copa Sudamericana but with a little luck they could all progress.

Liga de Loja had the toughest task against Brazilian giants Gremio and although they secured a credible home draw they will have their work cut out in Porto Alegre. Especially after losing the away goal. Yimmy Bermudez took the lead for Loja in the first half before a Larrea own goal restored parity 7 minutes later.

Emelec secured a fine 2-2 away draw in Chile against current Sudamericana  holders Universidad de Chile and should be confident of progress for the return and although Barcelona lost to Sao Paulo  they should also overcome the Brazilians in Guayaquil.

The most impressive result was Deportivo Quito’s against Tigre of Argentina. The negro azules have been truly awful domestically and until recently relegation was a realistic threat.  Both teams eventually finished the game with 10 men but importantly Quito got tow goals through Lorca in 53 minutes and Vila in the 86th.

     Deportivo Quito       2 – 0                Tigre

                  Liga de Loja         1 – 1           Sao Paulo

                      Barcelona         0 – 1            Gremio

Universidad de Chile        2 – 2         Emelec

Historic night for Ecuador in the Copa Sudamericana

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Prior to last nights games it was feared that Deportivo Quito and Liga de Loja would be eliminated from the competition, especially as their Serie A form has been so dreadful. In the end all 3 teams progressed and with the strong likelihood that Barcelona will overcome Cobreloa tonight, it means that Ecuador will have 4 teams in the second round for the first time.

 

The major surprise of the night was Liga de Loja who overcame Nacional of Uruguay 2 – 1 after losing 0 -1 at home in the first leg. It was an historic win for the La Garra del Oso (The Bear Claw) considering this is only their first foray into International competition. Their reward is a glamour tie with Sau Paulo of Brazil in the next round.

Deportivo Quito put their hideous league form behind them to claim an impressive 3 -1 win away to Aurora of Bolivia.Quito were protecting a 2 -1 win from the first leg and progressed 5 – 2 on aggregate. The game was in the heady heights of Cochabamba (2,588 meters) but didn’t faze the Chullas as they controlled the game with the aid of a Bevacqua double. Deportivo will now travel to Argentina for a next round tie against Tigre.

Nacional 1 – 2 Liga de Loja
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Aurora 1  – 3 Deportivo Quito
 
Emelec 0 – 0 Olympia

The night was rounded off nicely with Emelec progressing with a 0 – 0 draw against Olympia of Paraguay after a 0 -1 away in the first leg. The Guayaquil giants now face Universidad de Chile in the next month, 2011 champions.

 

Although everyone is celebrating the Ecuadorian success it is proving to be a major headache fro the footballing authorities as the calendar is already behind schedule. The coming Internationa l weekend will only further complicate matters.