First Division - Day 1

Numancia 1 - Oviedo 0

Numancia: Nuñez; Gustavo, Muñiz, Montoya, Octavio (David Pirri 73'); Iñaki (Rosu 70'), Marini, Manel, Pacheta; Ojeda (Chispa Delgado 77'), Rubén Navarro. 4-4-2.
Oviedo: Esteban; Keita, Danjou, Martinovic (Bango 48'), Boris; Amieva, Onopko, Tomic, Iván Ania (Nadj 55'); Losada, Möller (Oli 70'). 4-4-2.

1-0. 86. Delgado. Header on far post after free kick from Pirri on left.

Numancia started their second season in the first division in much the same way as the first, as one of the strong favourites to go down. Last year they surprised more than a few, keeping an unbeaten home record for over half of the season and holding on at the end to keep their place at the top flight. But this year they have lost over half their squad, with manager Andoni Goikoetxea leaving, and star players such as Castaño and Iván Rocha moving on. Their new replacements are not bad considering their budget, with a job lot from Deportivo, Manel, Pirri and José Manuel, a couple of promising youngsters, Gustavo and Montoya, another Romanian international Rosu and Argentinian Claudio Marini. They also managed to hold on to three of their top stars from last year, Ojeda, Nagore and Rubén Navarro after rumours they would leave.

In their first match of the season they came up against one of the sides who could also be fighting for survival, Oviedo. With Luis Aragonés turning down an offer to stay on, they have taken on one of the most experienced managers in Europe, Radomir Antic, ex manager of Atlético Madrid. Antic has brought in two of his fellow countrymen, Martinovic and Djordje Tomic to strengthen the side, but recently declared that he had made a mistake in joining the club as his requests for more reinforcements were turned down by management. In the end however they were able to sign one of his requests, Oli coming back from Betis to replace Dely Valdés up front. It remains to be seen however if the squad is strong enough to survive, with stars such as Dely and Paulo Bento leaving, and the tragic death of Peter Dubovsky coming so soon after the death of Corbo's wife in a car accident weighing heavily on the club and players. The Spanish Federation recently allowed Oviedo to retire the number 10 shirt for the next two seasons as a mark of respect to Dubovsky, replacing it with the number 26.

One player who is staying at Oviedo is their keeper Esteban, recently called up by Camacho to the Spanish squad. Thanks to him Oviedo were able to keep their goal untouched as Numancia swept forward time and time again, the keeper saving from Manel, Ojeda and Rubén Navarro on several occasions. Rubén was the best of the home team players, and he was unlucky not to see his efforts rewarded when he hit the post just before half time with Esteban finally beaten. Oviedo's first and only shot at goal came early in the second half when Möller missed a golden opportunity, shooting wide with only the keeper to beat. Antic brought on Bango and Nadj and then Oli, but they had little effect and Numancia kept up their attack. With less than a quarter of an hour to go, Herrera brought on his secret weapon, Chispa Delgado, and the Uruguayan finally made the break through that Numancia deserved, heading in a free kick from the left.

Numancia then start off as last year, although we shall have to see how they progress against better opposition before making any judgement. They could perhaps become Spain's Wimbledon, always doing enough to survive in a division full of superstars and multi-million dollar budgets. But then the Dons finally went down this year. Oviedo are struggling already, and the only consolation may be that there are several other clubs likely to do the same, with all three newly promoted teams losing at home. If Numancia and Oviedo are near the bottom at the end, todays game was a four pointer for Numancia, given that direct goal average counts in Spain before general goal average. Right now the Soria faithful are happy with their first three points.