First Division - Day 1

Real Sociedad 2 - Racing Santander 2

Real Sociedad: Asper; López Rekarte, Gurrutxaga, Pikabea, Aranzábal; Tayfun (Khokhlov 32') Aranburu; Collet, Idiakez (Jauregui 73'), De Pedro (Gabilondo 67'); Jankauskas. 4-2-3-1.
Racing: Ceballos; Tais (Morán 70'), Arzeno, Mellberg, Sietes; Manjarín, Espina, Colsa, Amavisca; Bestchastnykh, Rushfeldt (Estévez 80'). 4-4-2.

1-0. 50. Idiakez. Headed De Pedro's corner past keeper.
2-0. 74. Jankauskas (penalty). After dubious foul by Sietes on López Rekarte.
2-1. 83. Bestchastnykh (penalty). Debatable penalty by Aranzábal on player.
2-2. 94. Morán. Beat keeper with crossed shot after quick free kick.

Autumn is here, and with it the referees return to the hunting grounds of Europe. One of our favourites, Prados García, made his mark again in a match involving Racing Santander. Last season the referee and Racing's goalkeeper Ceballos produced one of the tragi-comic scenes of the season when Prados plummeted to the ground as Ceballos advanced upon him to protest at a controversial decision. The presumed act of aggression cost the keeper a three month suspension, whereas Prados's dive, which would have got any centre forward cum budding actor sent off, only got sympathy from the governing bodies. This time Ceballos was playing it cool, offering to shake hands with the referee and telling the press that he was not a bad chap really.

On this occasion though, the party most aggrieved by the referee was Real Sociedad. After dominating for the first 45 minutes, the home side had built up a two goal lead in the second half, with first Idiakez heading home De Pedro's corner (the first goal of the new league) and then Prados awarding a dubious penalty for a foul by Sietes on López Rekarte, which Jankauskas insisted on taking (and scoring). All well and good, but two minutes from time the referee gave another penalty that wasn't to Racing for a tackle by Aranzábal on Bestchastnykh, sending off the Real defender in the incident for a second yellow card. The Russian striker gladly accepted the ball and placed it past Real's new keeper Asper.

Then with the game four minutes into injury time Jankauskas and Arzeno went up for a ball in the Racing area. Jankauskas was hit in the face by Arzeno's forearm and fell to the ground bleeding from the forehead. The Lithuanian striker was carried off and had to have seven stitches put in the cut, but Prados ruled that the Real player had deliberately head-butted the Argentinian's elbow and gave a free kick to Racing. With Real's nine men protesting to the referee, the kick was taken quickly and the visitors chased upfield and scored. Game over. As with the match between Zaragoza and Espanyol (which mirrored the last few minutes exactly), the referee was shielded by helmeted police as objects rained down and the home team players chased him down the tunnel. And still only the first game of the season! There is a lot to come from this boy yet.

Real were in the end unlucky not to take the three points, as they were by far the better side. Clemente has now put together a good team with some shrewd low profile foreign signings (Asper is the first foreign keeper in the history of the club), and they should fare better this season. They have however been unlucky so far with injuries to the new men, with Peiremans picking up a serious injury and Arif missing for this game, and Arif's fellow countryman Tayfun joined the injury list with a knee ligament problem which will keep him out for up to a month.

Racing are expected to struggle this season, having not replaced their two star players Salva and Munitis. However their new manager Andoni Goikoetxea is used to working with small budgets (he was in charge of Numancia last season), and with a never-ending supply of youngsters at Santander he could keep them in the first division. Bestchastwhatshisname has stayed on, and Rushfeldt could take his opportunity this season after staying in Salva's shadow last year. So far they have only made one new signing, Argentinian forward Maximillian "Chanchi" Estévez, although they could still add one or two more before the markets close this weekend. In any case, with luck (and refereeing decisions) like they had today they start one step ahead of the rest. Maybe Goiko is Irish?