A gritty win against Getafe was a milestone for Betis in giving the club bragging rights over city rivals Sevilla for the first time in years
Here’s a little known fact about Real Betis: we’re talking about the La Liga team who have played the largest number of times on a Monday this season. To date, Los Verdiblancos have ‘suffered’ this inconvenience 10 times in 30 matches: no other side comes even close. And the reasoning behind this bizarre scheduling, which often causes fan backlash and affects the weekly planning of the squad, lies in the TV platform which broadcasts the game, who get in return spectacular share numbers and audiences of over one million viewers.
That’s just how insanely loyal the Betico fans are for their team.
Last Monday, at a ground and against a Getafe opposition that could be easily switched with the old Stoke City saying (the “but can they do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke?”), Real Betis fought bravely and with its trademark style of picking up points, finding gold after Sergio Leon’s finish in the nick of time. Winning 0-1 in a cold, spring night in Getafe is no easy task, and the players celebrated not only the three points, but something much more satisfying: overtaking arch-enemy Sevilla in the standings.
Why was it such a deal? Well, let’s take a look at cold, hard stats. The last time Real Betis were in a better position than Sevilla was five years ago, in the 2012-2013 season. The last time Real Betis were sitting in such a comfortable spot was 13 years ago, with Lorenzo Serra Ferrer on the bench; that season, the team ultimately squeezed into the Champions League places and won the Copa del Rey.
But possibly the best ‘stat’ to any Bético came less than two months ago, when Sevilla’s own Vincenzo Montella stated that “there was no chance” that Betis would finish the season over them. A few weeks later, the verdiblancos’ spectacular streak has allowed them to draw alongside Sevilla in points (46), but with a better goal-average, after winning the first-leg game in the Sánchez Pizjuán (3-5).
Leaving the uncanny rivalry between both Seville teams aside, Quique Setién deserves high praise after hitting their stride and finding the sweet spot in a key stretch of the season. Real Betis often found themselves in trouble in the first few games, happy to attack carelessly with no regard to defending. And sometimes, the thrashing by opposite teams did leave them scratching their heads: 3-1 vs Villarreal, 3-6 at home vs Valencia, 5-0 vs Eibar. They were fun to watch but too unreliable.
After getting knocked out of Copa del Rey by a second division team (Cadiz), something changed just in time for the local derby. The 3-5 score reinforced Setien’s plan both in the players’ and the fans’ collective minds: an open playing style had some risks, but at last Betis would have a recognizable trademark style, something they lacked in previous seasons.
As the confidence of the team grew, the worries and concerns shrunk smaller and smaller. After the Sevilla derby, Betis have played 12 games, with a record of seven wins, one draw and four defeats (three of them against Barça, Madrid and Valencia). If we put this into perspective, it seems they’ve become consistent at last, winning the games they’re supposed to, making the Benito Villamarín a stronghold of their own and striking that long-sought balance between attack and defense.
Good night, béticos! 😊😴 pic.twitter.com/WpgY5JRfgS
— Real Betis Balompié (@RealBetis_en) April 2, 2018
They say nothing happens by chance. In this case, serendipity had quite a few things to say: Quique Setién was appointed last summer thanks to, guess who, Serra Ferrer. The manager who took Betis to soaring heights in the early 2000’s was, in his position as a Sporting Director, fully accountable for picking a coach who would bring identity and flair to a club which needed that surge of adrenaline.
Now, with 45,000 fans strong every two weeks in the Villamarin and with plenty of confidence to boot, they face the ultimate challenge. With the top four spots already filled, Villarreal hesitating and Sevilla focused on the Champions League quarterfinals, maybe this actually is Betis’ golden chance to surge back to European competitions unexpectedly.