|First Division - Day 1|
Las Palmas 0 - Alavés 3
Las Palmas: Cicovic;
Edu Alonso, Sarasúa, Olías, Paqui (Josico 62'); Pablo Lago (Toddi
74'), Jaime Molina (Moreno 62'), Samways, Jarni; Eloy, Oktay. 4-4-2.
An almost capacity 18,000 crowd turned up to see Las Palmas return to the top flight after 12 seasons in the lower divisions. The supporters at the Insular stadium have a reputation as eternal optimists, prepared to see the bright side of every situation no matter how bad it gets, and they needed to be as this match progressed. Their rivals Alavés took them apart, scoring three goals without reply and proving that the Islanders have a lot to learn if they are to survive at this level, despite counting on veterans such as Robert Jarni and ex Spurs and Everton midfielder Vinny Samways, and strengthening their squads with quality players such as Turkish striker Oktay, Bilbao's Edu Alonso and Iceland's Gudjonsson (all three of whom made their debuts in this match).
Alavés almost got themselves a place in the Champions League last season, and eventually ended up qualifying for the UEFA cup for the first time in their history. However many sports commentators had written them off this season, saying that they over-achieved last year and that this year they would at best end up in mid-table. They came to the Canary Islands then determined to prove them wrong, and set about their task right from the start, with two of their new signings, Jordi Cruyff combining to open the scoring within thirty seconds of the kick off, with Cruyff heading on a long throw for Geli to get in front of his marker and head past Cicovic.
The crowd didn't give up though, rather like the black knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail. "I've cut off your arm", said the good knight, "you have to give up". "No, it's only a flesh wound". On they drove, with Oktay getting three or four chances but failing to get on the score sheet as referee Puentes Leira disallowed one goal for offside. Alavés were playing their usual game though, packing the midfield and looking for the quick break, and Pablo was unlucky when a centre-cum-shot hit the crossbar.
Jordi Cruyff was a constant menace to Sergio Kresic's team, and he was unlucky not to score a couple of times just after the break. Fifteen minutes into the half though he combined with his ex Barcelona B teammate Javi Moreno to set him up for his team's second goal. The fans still didn't give up. "I've cut your other arm off, give up". "I can still use my feet". But five minutes later the duo struck again, once again Cruyff laying on the perfect pass for Moreno to volley the ball past a stranded Cicovic. "Now your leg..". "...I can still bite". The crowd carried on singing and the team carried on playing, and Eloy could have got the consolation goal they deserved if his shot from Jarni's pass near the end had not rebounded off a post.
But Alavés took their first three points and left the island to face their first UEFA cup match midweek. "That's it, run away you cowards, I had you beat...". They had made a much better start than last year and scored a lot more than their usual 1-0, a fact explained away by their retired striker Julio Salinas, now commentating for a radio station, as being due to the new demands and expectations of European football.
Vinny Samways went back to his bar in Las Palmas to lick his wounds and serve up a few more cocktails. His manager must be wondering whether he needs to sign any new players before next week's deadline, and hoping that Brazil don't go all the way in the Olympic games so that he can count on his two new young signings, Baiano and Alvaro, currently in Sydney playing for their country.