Spain 4 - Ecuador 0
Cañizares (Casillas 75'); Michel Salgado (Gabri 46'), Iván
Helguera, (César 46'), Marchena, Aranzábal (Raúl Bravo
46'); Xabi Alonso (Guti 66'), Baraja (Sergio 66'); Joaquín,
Valerón, De Pedro, Morientes (José Marí 66'). 4-2-3-1.
From our international correspondents Borja Pantzov and Goran Arsic .
Well, what a week for injuries. It would have been better to reschedule this game to the central hospital in Madrid and set up a round of dominos or something. Certainly our boys have been falling like dominos - just look at the injury list between the first team and the under 21 side: Puyol, Etxeberría, Xavi, Albelda, Vicente, Diego Tristán, Tamudo, Angel, Mario, Marc Bertán, Reyes, Fernando Torres,.....and now Raúl with appendicitis! We are just missing a goalkeeper, and with Atlético's ex international Esteban also out we have a full team unable to play. Goran volunteered his services but he couldn't find Iñaki Sáez. And it turned out that he was ill as well, suffering from gastro-enteritis brought about so we hear by worries after Albelda and Vicente. They said they were injured, but their club didn't send a sick note or anything, so they were made to drive to Madrid to prove they were not fit to drive to Madrid. No wonder the manager got sick.
Anyway there are lots of other players to watch, with Xabi Alonso given a chance with the first team and César, De Pedro, Sergio and Gabri called up at the last minute. Xabi Alonso and Gabri will be getting their first full caps, and we are also keen to see what Morientes will do after only playing a few minutes all season for Real Madrid. Atlético Madrid's José Marí is in the side too at his home stadium, but it will be interesting to see what sort of mood he is in after club president Jesús Gil got angry with the players and said they didn't deserve to live after losing to Osasuna at the weekend in the big centenary celebration match. Given Gil's rumoured connections with the Mafia that sort of threat has to be taken seriously!
This match is of course also part of their centenary celebrations, but when we get to the Vicente Calderón ground we are surprised to see, not the red shirts of Spain, but the yellow of Ecuador dominating the stadium. There are a reported 25,000 of them at the match, most if not all of whom work in and around Madrid, and Goran is happy that he decided to wear his reversible shirt with yellow on the inside. The teams come out and some of our boys are booed, but it is not the Ecuadorians this time but the Atlético fans who are jeering the Real Madrid players Michel Salgado, Iván Helguera and Morientes. They even disrespectfully whistle throughout the minute's silence for Salgado's mother who died a few days ago, not a great advert for Spanish sportsmanship.
But anyway the game gets under way, and we are top right from the first minute. Surely they can't be such a push-over, they played in the World Cup finals remember, but with only a quarter of the game gone we are already three goals ahead! First it is De Pedro with a low free kick which shouldn't have caught out anybody, but Hurtado sticks out a foot and deflects it past his own goalkeeper. Then it's Morientes, winning the ball off Poroso and then leaving the poor man sitting on his backside (or really his bottom side) and scoring past Cevallos, and two minutes later he is there again, De Pedro's cross again not being cut out by Poroso and Morientes having a free shot at goal.
Ecuador's manager Bolillo Gómez is furious and makes two changes, bringing on ex Celta striker Kaviedes and defender Espinoza and taking off Edwin Tenorio and the poor dejected Poroso, but quite honestly what did he expect with a man whose name means "porous" in the middle of his defence. Actually we might as well go home now as the game is over, but Goran has joined a musical band of Ecuadorians and seems to be enjoying himself so we stay on. Ecuador are playing better now and have a goal disallowed for offside, and Cañizares makes a good save from Aguinaga's free kick. He must be over forty and looks like something out of Status Quo on a bad night, but he nearly caught us out there.
We have had a couple more chances though, Valerón shooting just wide and Joaquín not quite able to control a pass, and a few minutes in to the second half "El Moro" is there again to complete his hat-trick, a bit lucky if you don't mind me saying so as he only half hit a shot past the keeper. There is the usual round of changes after that, with another one of Iñaki Sáez's youngsters Gabri now playing at right back, a position he never played for the old man's under 21 side. But Ecuador are already out of it, and Goran is already fixing up to go on to a party with his new friends. By the look in his eyes it is going to be a long night. See you all in June when the Euro 2004 qualifiers return.