Monday, November 20, 2023, 7:56 p.m.
Choose the horror movie title to define the Levante season. It’s a nightmare that never ends. A constant setback, a never-ending bad fate and a situation on the verge of explosion. If the team and the fans were already coming, warmed by what happened in Leganés – and against Villarreal B, and Amorebieta, and several others -, the refereeing was once again the devastating factor. Levante always hits the same rock. Script similar to that of Butarque, competent start of the team, which takes the lead on two occasions, until controversy arises. There the house of cards collapses. The VAR is the particular Thanos of Levante. He snaps his fingers and dispels all life in Orriols. A penalty in favor, which was already signaled, was canceled due to a previous offside. A penalty against on the line of the area, inside and marked. A possible handball in Racing’s third goal touches the thigh. Everything goes wrong. And that psychologically affects the team, which collapses and is unable to recover and get back up in the face of these foreign and practically uncontrollable factors. Until all these actions, the team complied. But it is an endless cycle. It’s all a matter of millimeters. And they always fall on the bad side of Levante. A match that seemed controlled, with the stands engaged and the score in favor, falls apart and ends in tragedy. From 2-1 to the painful 2-4, like that, in a snap of the fingers and the lift straight to the hole. There are already five days without winning in the League and the play-off places (not to mention direct promotion) are moving away. Hence the “Calleja, go now!” and the “Directive, resignation!” which Levante Fans sang and who half accompanied a section of the stands. That’s how things are. A team sunk in morale, that plays well until the refereeing dismantles them and that ends up biting the dust in a story that is repeated too many times.
And the game started well. Before the quarter of an hour, the first goal arrived in an action that perfectly defines the plan that Calleja had devised: when Racing steals and goes on the counterattack, press quickly and recover to transition against a deployed team. Vezo did the trick, after stealing in the center of the field, he raised his head and drew a pass into the hole at the feet of Dani Gómez with a square and bevel. This time the forward did choose well – the same thing would not happen in other actions as usual – and after surpassing his marker, he reached the baseline to put one of those poisoned low centers behind. Ezkieta cleared with his foot, but the ball remained dead in the area and there Clemente shot with his left foot. Too early to score, some would think.
The Ciutat celebrated but took advantage of the break due to a muscle injury to a Racing player to sing “Tebas, go now!” and “Corruption, in the Federation!” as a protest against the refereeing injustices experienced in recent days. The cheering stands also wore red cards as a sign of protest to the referees.
That initial joy did not last long, with a relaxation that could be said to be almost typical of the team once they took the lead. A muddled play in the center of the field culminated in a loss by Clemente, who claimed a foul (it was called but not reviewed), the referee let it continue and a pass into the hole led Arana in front of Femenías, whose exit was not the fastest. The definition of the Racing striker, impeccable, 1-1 and start again. Levante pressed and Mantilla had to take a shot from Dani Gómez from under the goalposts. The nine granota was also the protagonist of the first controversial action, in which after staying in a one-on-one with Ezkieta, he was clearly knocked down by the Racinguista goalkeeper. The referee saw it and signaled a penalty, but it was annulled due to a previous offside. What are you going to do. When it seemed that the refereeing was helping Levante, the VAR, as seen in the image, although just barely, took it away from them.
Right on the edge of half-time it was 2-1. A cross from Xavi Grande sailed through the area and reached the other side, where Romero caught it to put the ball against the post. Definition of level to put the Barça team ahead again with one of those psychological goals within seven minutes of added time. Unfortunately, Racing did not collapse and after passing through the locker room, they came out strong. A long ball towards Arana’s run caused Valle to have to intervene, and in the attempt to steal it, he knocked down the Cantabrian striker. Right on the line of the area, which the VAR checked. The small details always fall on the negative side of the Levante and in this case, it was in, just barely. The referee’s initial decision was validated and Peque executed the maximum penalty to equalize, deceiving Femenías.
Levante received another of those emotional blows and collapsed. In a cross into the area, Arana wins the duel against a very weak Dela and defines against a Femenías who, again, comes out late and does not stop for one. A hand was protested, but in the replay we see contact on the thigh, and in any case, Dela’s hand. Incredible but a skinny dog, it’s all fleas. That is the definition of what happened. With the team aiming for a draw, Racing sealed the deal with the fourth, from Gerard, who finished at will in the area against a passive defense that was already completely out of the game. To make matters worse, Brugué’s scare at the end. The granota player collapsed on the grass and had to be treated. An action that left the Ciutat de València frozen.
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