x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

A black day for the green and whites

Real Betis fans run amok in Seville after their club is relegated from the Primera Liga following their 1-1 home draw to Real Valladolid.

Walter Pandiani, left, helped Osasuna beat Christoph metzelder's Real Madrid to escape relegation.
Walter Pandiani, left, helped Osasuna beat Christoph metzelder's Real Madrid to escape relegation.

The emotions of the Real Betis fans varied, but none were positive. Tears, which flowed down the creases of sunburned faces, were dried by green and white scarves. Others threw stones and bottles at the entrance to the towering Manuel Ruiz de Lopera stadium and demanded widespread dismissals as lines of police pushed them back. Passions often run high in Seville and on Sunday night Betis fans later barricaded streets with rubbish and challenged any authority to their mob mentality with petrol bombs.

In the cold light of day, all will struggle to digest the news that Real Betis will play in Spain's second division next season. Instead of playing Real Madrid and Barcelona, they will meet minnows and other fallen powers like Celta Vigo and Real Sociedad. Betis's fate was confirmed after they tumbled four places into the final relegation spot following their 1-1 home draw to Real Valladolid. Five teams faced possible relegation before the 38th and final round of matches. Osasuna came from behind to beat Real 2-1 at home. The result moved them up to 14th and sparked celebrations in Pamplona. Sporting Gijon also came from behind against Recreativo Huelva. They finished 16th and the centre of Gijon erupted in joy. Getafe's battling 1-1 draw at Racing Santander brought them relief as they finished 17th, one place above the relegation zone.

That left relegation-threatened Betis and Valladolid in Seville's sweltering heat. The visitors took the lead through Marcos Aguirre at the end of the first half. Betis cult hero Ricardo Oliveira equalised four minutes after the break, but his side needed a win. In the tensest of circumstances, Edu hit the Valladolid crossbar after 70 minutes and Oliveira almost scored a winner in the dying seconds. Almost. The thin line between success and failure has seldom been more acute.

Valladolid held on to their top flight status, Betis went down on inferior goal difference to Getafe. The difference was one goal. The emotional Betis coach Jose Maria Nogues said: "Nobody thought about going down. It's a great surprise to us and a very sad day for all of us. We came so close to winning, but football can be so unjust. But that's the thing with destiny, nobody knows it." Despite being in 10th position as recently as April 20, Betis won just one of their last seven league games and slid down the table. With average crowds of 38,000, they are the sixth best supported team in Spain and will be favourites for an immediate return from Segunda A, where they last played in 2001. Not that such theorising offers much consolation to Betis fans at the moment.