Valencia resist battling Betis amid the 'blessed madness'

It’s hard to know where to start with Real Betis 3-6 Valencia, the game that was always likely to be fun but proved to be even more fantastic

“I’m too old for this,” Marcelino said and he’s only 52. Three weeks ago the Valencia coach, who once got cramp in a press conference, pulled a muscle celebrating a dramatic late winner at Anoeta. That night it was his hamstring that hurt; on Sunday night it was his heart. His head too. His and everyone else’s. While he might be an excitable bundle of energy, dashing and leaping and pointing his way along the touchline, he wasn’t alone: it wasn’t just his brain spinning or his sternum about to burst. Down at the Benito Villamarín, amidst all the heat and the noise, they were having a collective coronary. When eventually it subsided, when they had survived, they realised they’d never felt so alive.

“Blessed madness,” El Mundo called it. Super Deporte went for “scandal”, which they meant in a good way; Estadio Deportivo chose “Russian Roulette”; AS, “festival”. Valencia captain Dani Parejo didn’t know what to call it, so “…?” would have to do. That and a couple of faces crying with laughter. Marcelino said it almost as well without saying anything when cameras caught him turning to assistant Rubén Uría on the bench – where, for once, he was actually sitting – and shooting a look that asked: “What the hell’s going on?” Uría shrugged. He didn’t know and it wasn’t like anything he said would be heard. All around, people shouted: “Yes, we can!” And, amazingly, everyone thought they could. Could? Would. As one cover said: “They dreamt amid the chaos.”

It’s hard to know where to start with Real Betis versus Valencia, the game that was always likely to be fun but proved even more fantastic, eclipsing everything, even Atlético-Barcelona. You could start at the start or you could start at the end, but it’s hard to even know where the start is, and what most people thought was the end wasn’t the end at all. In fact, maybe that was the start? More than the start was, anyway: at 8.45pm on 15 October, kick-off time in the penultimate game of week eight, it was 32 degrees in Seville, but that turned out to be the least remarkable thing of all. It wasn’t even the most startling stat. Confused? So was just about everyone else. Confused but thrilled, as exhilarated as they were exhausted.

At the end of a game in which for only the third time ever there were nine different scorers – Geoffrey Kongdobia, Gonçalo Guedes, Rodrigo, Santi Mina, Joel Campbell, Antonio Sanabria, Cristian Tello, Simone Zaza and Andreas Pereira – and in which a penalty save from Netoprevented Sergio León from making it 10; in which almost all of them were brilliant and even the one nodded in from a corner, a real “have that” of a header, was impressive; in which there were seven second-half goals, five in the last 12 minutes; and in which, as one paper put it, the visitors had gone from “touching heaven to feeling the heat of hell” and the home side had somehow slipped from their “straitjacket”, supporters gave a standing ovation to players who could barely stand. Players who had just let in six.

In the middle, one of them smiled: Joaquín is Betis’s captain and he had been beaten. And yet … Parejo, Valencia’s captain, wore a look of amused bafflement – which he does quite often, but this was different. The applause kept on. “Please carry on like this,” one local editorial said. “Although, if you could defend corners a little better …” “They appreciated our effort, what we did, beyond the result,” Quique Setien said afterwards. On Spanish television the commentator was almost slumped on the desk, running through a list of each and every one of them: managers, coaches, physios, players, fans, ball-boys, the lot. “Gracias,” he said, repeatedly. Football, eh? Bloody brilliant.

So, back to the start, which was quite near the end. Kongdobia had hammered in the opener with his head, before Guedes scored an astonishing second and Rodrigo made it 0-3. With 18 minutes to go, Mina made it four. In the meantime, Neto had saved a penalty with his foot, booting the ball away as he fell towards the other post. “We thought it was over,” Marcelino admitted, but they were just getting going. And so it began.

Campbell came on and was given a gift, suddenly standing there alone in front of Neto. With his first touch, he scored; 78.16, 1-4. “Too little too late,” one commentator said, but it wasn’t. There was a whole world ahead of them and more goals in 12 minutes than in any other game all weekend. Maybe that shouldn’t have surprised us: with these two there so often is more to come. When Valencia’s fourth went in, some Betis fans headed home. But here’s the thing: they were very few. And most responded with a roar. “Betis! Betis! Betis!” rolled round. Perhaps they knew.

Joel Campbell celebrates after scoring for Betis.
Joel Campbell celebrates after scoring for Betis. Photograph: Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty Images

Valencia’s last three games had finished 3-2, 3-2 and 5-0; Betis’s previous match had finished 4-4, and really should have finished 5-4, while the game before that ended 4-0. Oh, and the one before that had finished with a 93rd-minute Sanabria goal to win at the Bernabéu; 28 goals in six games. Make that 37 in seven. Setien once called himself a “rolling stone” – Keef, presumably – and on Sunday night admitted the way they play sometimes “facilitates” things for opponents, especially “a great team like Valencia”. He also says he’d rather his team drew 4-4 than 0-0. Soon it looked like that was exactly what they were going to do.

If Campbell scored with his first touch, with his second he produced a wonderful pass for Sanabria. He stepped past the keeper and scored, from a tight angle. Eighty-eight seconds gone, another goal scored, another decibel reached, and they weren’t finished. On the touchline, Marcelino was appealing for calm. Not likely. Around the stadium 49,000 fans stood and shouted, bellowing their lungs out. “Sí, se puede! Sí, se puede!” Yes, we can! They could too. Betis’s Victor Camarasa, who didn’t score, volleyed over. Ten shots each, 2-4, eight minutes left, 30 seconds to take the goal-kick and only 30 more until the ball was in the net again. A third touch for Campbell, a third goal, more gorgeous than the last.

Campbell’s cross eventually reached Tello, who bent it into the corner; 83.11, 3-4, and the place was going wild. This was actually going to happen. “Sí, se puede! Sí, se puede! Sí, se puede! Sí, se puede!” The ball found Campbell for a fourth time and into the area he ran, tumbling. Then it was Tellos’s turn. Valencia couldn’t get out. At the side of the pitch, Marcelino pointed to the scoreboard but they knew what it said – and only too well. Antonio Barragan rushed up the wing, dragged down by Pereira; 86.21, hearts racing. “Sí, se puede! Sí, se puede!” Yes, we can.

No, you can’t. A scuffed pass, possession lost to Kongdobia, a lovely pass from Mina and there was Zaza, pain shooting up his leg as he thumped the ball hard and true into the net. High in the Villamarín, a handful of Valencia fans leapt. Zaza could barely walk; 87.39, 3-5. Still Betis came, still they shouted. Barragán curled over. The board went up with three minutes on it, which was not enough: not just because they wanted the chance to equalise, but because they didn’t want this to end. But soon it would.

The clock read 92.34 when Riza Durmisi headed into the Valencia area, 10 yards from the byline. Guedes took it off him and started to run. Durmisi gave chase, swung a leg, but Guedes kept going. Twenty yards, 30, 40, 50, all the way to the other end. A pass to Pereira and he belted in the ninth, another beauty; 92.50. 3-6. Six goals in 12 minutes from which you pretty much have to deduct four minutes 30 seconds with the restarts, free-kicks and goal-kicks. It was, at last, the goal that ended it; also the goal that summed it up. From one end to the other in a flash.

The players fell to the floor, but the stadium erupted. There was more applause. “Viva er Beti manqué pierda,” the phrase goes. Long live Betis, even if they lose. If they lose like this, especially.

Talking points

• Before Barcelona’s first visit to a Stadium Called Wanda, Diego Simeone was asked if he would be leaving the grass long and dry. “I’m no gardener,” he said, “but when I invite you to my house for dinner, we use my table cloth and crockery.” Asked what he thought, Ernesto Valverde said: “We’ll adapt to their crockery, to everything.” And on the day that one paper declared the “main course”, Marca saying there was “caviar for dinner”, they did – eventually. One down to a wonderful Saúl goal, Barcelona improved in the second half, carrying the game to Atlético, even if not always with quite the clarity they would have liked, and got an equaliser from Luis Suárez. “It is important for him to score but he played well all game: he moves very well in the area when the traffic is terrible,” Valverde said.

Then right at the end Leo Messi, who Simeone described as “incredible, tremendous” and who hit the post, put another just wide, was brought down in the area, and had a chance in the opening 30 seconds, had an opportunity to win it right at the end. Fouled on the edge of the area, Barcelona had a free-kick which, some players told their opponents, was going to be a “goal”. A free-kick which, referee Mateu Lahoz announced to everyone, as if he was playing 60 seconds headers and volleys, as “the last move”. The wall was packed, the faces looked fearful, and there was a big hole in it. Messi thumped the ball through straight into the arms of Jan Oblak. “All that was missing was Messi’s dessert,” Juan Jiménez wrote.

There was a kind of stillness and Oblak stood there holding. Everyone stopped, a kind of collective “Oh, is that it then?”. That was it. It had been a “great game” Simeone insisted. “It was a lovely dinner for everyone,” said Valverde.

Messi only manages to pick out Oblak with the final kick.
Messi only manages to pick out Oblak with the final kick. Photograph: Sergio Perez/Reuters

• One Cristiano Ronaldo was escorted off the pitch, leaving the other Crisiano Ronaldo to get the winner against Getafe. It was his first goal of the season, and came as a relief. So much so that he didn’t do that jumping up celebration perfected by six-year-olds everywhere. Zidane said he was “happy”; Getafe manager José Bordalás, on the other hand, was “very angry”. It had happened again: another late goal, another defeat. Getafe had impressed as they did against Barcelona and had a late chance at 1-1, as they did against Barcelona, but, like as they did against Barcelona, were beaten 2-1. “When it keeps happening it can’t be chance,” said captain Jorge Molina.

• Eight weeks into the season and Deportivo used their fourth goalkeeper. Pepe Mel turned to Francis Ozoho, the youngest foreign debutant in La Liga, aged 18 years, 352 days. “He barely speaks Spanish but he gave us tranquillity,” Mel said, which was a start. He couldn’t give them goal, though.

Picture of the week.

• “My players can’t see me demoralised because I’m not,” Míchel said after Málaga were beaten 2-0 by sixth-placed – yes, sixth-placed – Leganés. He may not be demoralised and he’s not out of a job yet, but things don’t look good. Málaga have one point.

Results: Espanyol 0-0 Levante, Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Sevilla, Getafe 1-2 Real Madrid, Alavés 0-2 Real Sociedad, Atlético Madrid 1-1 Barcelona, Eibar 0-0 Deportivo, Girona 1-2 Villarreal, Málaga 0-2 Leganés, Real Betis 3-6 Valencia. Monday: Las Palmas v Celta Vigo.

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Barcelona 8 21 22
2 Valencia 8 11 18
3 Real Madrid 8 8 17
4 Atletico Madrid 8 8 16
5 Sevilla 8 5 16
6 Leganes 8 4 14
7 Real Sociedad 8 2 13
8 Villarreal 8 1 13
9 Real Betis 8 0 13
10 Athletic Bilbao 8 1 11
11 Levante 8 -2 10
12 Espanyol 8 -4 9
13 Celta Vigo 7 2 8
14 Getafe 8 1 8
15 Deportivo La Coruna 8 -7 8
16 Eibar 8 -14 7
17 Girona 8 -6 6
18 Las Palmas 7 -8 6
19 Alaves 8 -9 3
20 Malaga 8 -14 1