League minnows Eibar were hotly tipped for relegation this season. They have won back to back promotions from the Segunda Division B right up to La Liga within two seasons and they managed an average home attendance last season of 2,901 fans, which is smaller than 84 of the English football league’s clubs. It is therefore easy to see why many punters backed them to not be able to withstand the rigours of Spanish’s footballs top division, however their performance this season has been nothing but extraordinary.
Starting off in front of their home crowd, they faced a difficult task against Real Sociedad on the first match day of the Primera Division this season. Central midfield new boy Javi Lara netted the only goal of the game on the stroke of half time, leaving Eibar in dreamland following their first win of the season on the opening match day. It was a spirited performance from the league newcomers, who managed to contain Sociedad even though they dominated the match.
The second match brought them back down to earth. Against current league holders Atletico Madrid away from home, they were beaten 2-1 in a tight affair in which both sides offered little going forward. An agonising miss from Boveda in the 75th minute just 6 yards out culminated in the first loss of the season for Armeros.
A disappointing result followed at home to fellow relegation favourites Deportivo La Coruna in which they lost 1-0. Poor finishing was another key factor which saw their first loss at home this campaign. A bounce back was needed and this is exactly what came next in the following week away at Elche in match day 4. The visitors put in a stern and solid performance to ensure a 2-0 win and another three points on the board. 6 points from the first four games in the league is a great start for the league newbies and is what is needed to avoid a relegation battle come the end of the season.
3 draws then ensued for Eibar, starting with a 1-1 home draw against European hopefuls Villarreal where the visitors dominated the possession and chances in the game. It was a hard fought draw in which captain Mikel Arruabarrena struck his first goal of the season in the Primera just 9 minutes into the game. However, Villarreal came back strong in the second half and just 19 minutes from time Moreno curled the ball into the far corner inside the penalty area. A good point taken at home for Eibar, who then faced Athletic Bilbao away from home. It ended in a stalemate, with Ander Capa’s shot being the closest chance for either site when it struck the bar.
Back in front of their home fans once again, they faced Levante in a difficult mid-table battle. It ended in a 6 goal thriller with a point being fair for both sides. Levante started the much better of the two sides and took the lead in just the second minute and then doubled their lead before half time. However, Eibar managed to get back into it just after the break due to an own goal by Pedro Lopez. This motivated the side to push on and get the equalizer 20 minutes from time through a Saul Berjon wonder goal. But it wasn’t over there, as Levante took the lead once again in the 79th minute it looked like they would take all three points from the match but a last gasp leveler from Italian striker Piovaccari ensured the points were shared.
A tough clash the week after on the biggest stage so far for the minnows, they arrived at the Nou Camp with a good points total on the board and put in a dogged performance against a very strong Barcelona side. 3 goals in 14 minutes however took the game away from the visitors in the second half and there hopes of a point were ended.
Eibar then continued the winless run against Granada at home. A 1-1 draw is all they could manage after an underwhelming second half from both sides meant no more goals were scored. The point moved Eibar up to 10th in the table, far and away from the relegation zone that many had predicted.
A win was then secured against Rayo Vallecano away from home for the first three points in 5 games for the Basque minnows. Eibar took control of the game with 2 goals either side of half time although a lapse of concentration meant Rayo scored two in just 65 seconds with on-loan Atletico Madrid striker Leo Baptistao. But as Rayo chased the three points, the red and blues bagged the winner in the 86th minute through Mikel Arruabarrena leaving them in ninth in the table before taking on Malaga on the 8th of November.
Last weekend’s fixture ended in disappointment after a dramatic late winner for Malaga meant Eibar took nothing from the game. A penalty in the last minute after Raul Navas handled in the box meant Amrabat had the chance to secure the win for Malaga. He slotted it home cooly to earn his side a deserved win after coming back from behind.
Eibar now sit in 10th position with 13 points from 11 games, a very good start to their first season in La Liga. After the international break, they face top of the table and in-form Real Madrid side who have scored 13 goals in their last three La Liga matches and only conceding two. It will be an uphill battle for the Basque side and they will have to dig deep if they are able to get anything from the match.
Their progress has captured the imagination of many supporters across Spain and their progress is nothing short of incredible. They have made a great start to the campaign and I sincerely hope the run can continue and they stay in the division for at least another season.