CD Tenerife 5 Cordoba 1
CARTOON animals, super-heroes, and fancy-dress creations that defied logic, hardly raised an eyebrow. But rampant Tenerife’s victory had Santa Cruz dancing.
New coach Joseba Etzeberria, in his first game in charge, sparked a fantasy on the pitch that complemented the fantasy theme of this year’s Carnival.
It could have been a dour dogfight, because Cordoba, third from bottom, were pinning their hopes on 10, new, transfer-window signings.
Tenerife’s latest faces, Luis Milla and debutant Alex Mula, rejuvenated the home side. But the most pleasing feature was the rebirth of the tired, predictable, established players.
Malbasic and Casadesus, named in the starting line-up, had, previously, struck terror into my heart. But they each had superb, influential games.
Etzeberria had promised a more attacking, vibrant game-plan, and it was evident from the Carnival Queen’s ceremonial kick-off.
After five minutes, Milla broke down the right, but was bundled off the ball near the goal. But it broke to Juan Villar, whose far-post finish was clinical, despite the close attention of two defenders.
Cordoba didn’t appear content to be the supporting act, Guardiola testing the home defence. And, when Dani Hernandez could only half-clear another shot after 20 minutes, Guardiola pounced for an equaliser, as the Tenerife defence appealed for an offside call that never came.
The visitors were enjoying their best spell, with former Tenerife player Javi Lara revelling in his captain’s role, as his side forced three corners.
Dani made a great, punched clearance from the third to relieve the pressure. But there was an enforced change for Tenerife just before half-time, when injured left-back Camille was replaced by Luis Perez.
Tenerife were bright and alert, with an eye for an opening, and Malbasic was a revelation. His neat turn inside nearly caught out the opposition keeper, but he reacted even quicker, a minute later, to feed off a Villar cross, sending Tenerife ahead.
Milla again looked a classy creator, and, with Alberto playing a holding role alongside him, he was encouraged to chase half-chances.
Mula, the 22-year-old loanee from Malaga, at last gave Tenerife a free-roaming, speedy presence on the left, and he caused the Cordoba defence multiple nightmares.
There are still some glaring problems for the new coach to deal with. Tenerife were awarded a 57th-minute penalty for a foul, and Villar completed the team’s fifth, consecutive, spot-kick failure, by shooting straight at the keeper. Thankfully, though, the ball rebounded out to Casadesus, who mopped it up nicely.
There was still life in the Cordoba team, especially when former Arsenal forward Jose Reyes came off the bench. But another couple of sharp stops by Dani gave Tenerife the platform to move in for a big finish.
Malbasic showed off his new confidence with some fancy footwork, setting up Villar for his second goal, after the keeper got a touch to the ball.
In the final minutes, Malbasic was at it again, this time to the benefit of Casadesus, who added a personal second, and a well-deserved fifth for the team.
This was a pleasing, all-round performance, and Tenerife didn’t even have to bring on Longo, their fit-again top-scorer, from the subs’ bench.
It was like old times, as the 10,207 crowd belted out the Carnival anthem, Chicharrero de Corazon, and a Mexican Wave rippled around the terraces.
Experience has taught Tenerife fans to beware of false dawns, and a 5pm kick-off at Alcorcon tomorrow (Saturday) will be a tougher test. But, for a few nights at least, Santa Cruz Carnival had that extra swagger.
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