Again, much like last week - and nearly every week before that - today’s match at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium was uneventful, polished with just enough drama to give us talking points. This was a nasty affair. I mean, really - it was your typical Segunda Divison B outing involving Castilla. Leioa were the working class, less-talented side ready to bunker up and unleash their studs in any body part easily accessible to them, and Castilla were reacting with verbal quips - often associated with a booking for either side.
To give you the gist, a general feel for how this match went, Leioa refused to threaten offensively. They played a deep line, and Castilla could barely penetrate despite holding on to possession. The ball circulated through Hermoso, Quezada, Lienhart, and Tejero for the majority of the first half, while the attackers struggled to find space. In theory, Solari’s line-up to start this match should’ve done a better job to combat Leioa’s tactics. In a 4-1-4-1, Tena anchored the midfield, while Sergio Diaz spearheaded a quartet of technical attacking midfielders in Odegaard, Febas, Valverde, and Cedres.
But the offensive flow was stagnant, despite the amount of creators on the pitch. Martin Odegaard was, for large stretches, isolated on the right wing, and when he did receive the ball, was hounded by defenders. Ditto for Cedres on the left.
Odegaard typically likes to cut in from the right and create danger, but Leioa clogged those channels today.
The one breakthrough Castilla had early on was when Valvere did well to steal the ball from a heedless defender before missing a breakaway. Later, as Leioa ramped up their physical foolhardiness, Castilla revved up the tempo and started finding holes on the break. After Valverde’s missed chance, Odegaard led a 4-on-1 counter attack before failing to play the ball quickly enough to the far side where Sergio Diaz was waiting, and the chance was wasted.
Diaz, meanwhile, played his worst game in a Castilla uniform. He’s had quiet games before, but you can typically count on him to show up with a goal no matter how subdued he gets.
Leioa denied him space, and frustrated him to no end - hacking away at his legs at every opportunity they could. In the second half, Diaz had an opportunity to redeem his poor showing after Febas gifted him a pass inside the area. Diaz, usually an assassin in those situations, blasted his shot high and wide.
Castilla continued pushing; all the meanwhile Leioa were dishing out bone-crunching tackles. Enzo Zidane was brought in with 20 minutes to go to replace Tena, and as Castilla pushed men forward, they started to look more and more threatening. They rounded out the last few minutes of the match with a barrage of corners from Odegaard to no avail, and then in the 96th minute - not a typo, to be clear - Febas made a fantastic run in the area and his low cross was handled by a Leioa defender.
Enzo Zidane cooly slotted the penalty to ice this game ubber-late for Castilla. It was his 2nd penalty conversion of the season.