Real Zaragoza – Levante UD 11-02-2017
Real Zaragoza 0:1 Levante UD
Saturday – 11 February 2017
Estadio La Romareda – Zaragoza, Spain
Attendance- 15,800 (Away- 40)
I left Marseille on Thursday, and spent that day at the Papal Palace in Avignon, and the Roman structures around Nîmes. We drove through Andorra on Friday and stayed in Zaragoza that night. Saturday was spent looking at Belchite, the sight of a Spanish Civil War battle and then the Aljaferia Palace and the Basilica de Nuestra Senora Pilar.
After a late lunch of some standard Spanish tapas, I walked a couple blocks to catch the tram that would drop me off right in front the Estadio La Romareda, a few kilometers south of my hotel next to the Basilica. After some German and French football in this trip, I was looking forward to a game in the Spanish second division between Real Zaragoza and league leaders Levante.
Both teams have spent time in La Liga in the past few years, and are hoping for a return to the top division. Levante were relegated last season and look to be heading straight back up, as the club from Valencia had won 7 of their previous 8 league games. The home side Real Zaragoza are the biggest club in Aragon, and the flag bearer for this region, with Huesca the only other Aragonese club above the third tier of Spanish football, but they’ve been stuck in the Segunda Division for the past 4 years and are struggling to return to the Premiera Division. They came into this contest in 12th place, 5 points off the playoff spots.
With a 7pm kick-off, I arrived a bit early so I could get a ticket. I was fortunate to get a seat under the roof in the north stand, as it had started to rain and these seats were almost completely sold out by 6:30. While Real Zaragoza maybe struggling in mid table in the standings, they are league leaders in attendance for the newly named LaLiga 1|2|3. I took my seat in the north stand, next to the more vocal Aragonese support. The lower tier had a few hearty souls who braved the rain, but the upper stand was almost at capacity. Again, I was surprised on how vocal the support was, and I’m realizing how much I’ve missed by not exploring more continental football.
The start of the game was an entertaining affair, with Zaragoza having 2 chances to take an early lead. They started the stronger side, with Angel having an early one on one with the Levante keeper, who stopped a stinging close range shot. Soon after, a 30-yard pile driver hit off the crossbar to deny Real Zaragoza a well-deserved lead. As is so often the way in football, 5 minutes before halftime, Levante would score a soul crushing goal that would end up being the only goal of the game. An in-swinging cross from the left side came in, just skimming striker Roger’s head and bobbled through the keeper’s hands into the net. These are the kinds of wins that you need when you are chasing promotion.
The second half was peppered with controversial refereeing decisions, as the fans got more restless. I was surprised at how quickly the Spanish fans were willing to go after the referee when any marginal decision went the wrong way. I don’t know if this was different to other countries, but their habit of whistling makes it more noticeable than other places. The game ended 1-0 for Levante, with the home fans disappointed, as some good goalkeeping for Levante, and poor goalkeeping for Zaragoza, were what separated these two sides.