La Liga round up – Derby of four divisions arrives in Primera

A mere six kilometres separates the Estadio Municipal de Butarque and Coliseum Alfonso Pérez in the south of Madrid. Leganés and Getafe have gone to battle in this satellite town derby many times before, but never like this.

This is a derby that’s accustomed to just a few hundred or perhaps a thousand spectators battling for local pride down in the dungeons of the Spanish football pyramid.

But on Friday night this game had, for the first time, the eyes of all of Spain on them.

Leganés have spent more seasons playing in the sixth tier than the first, and more seasons in the fourth tier of the Spanish game than any other.

Getafe was founded only in the early 1980s and have slowly but steadily risen to the elite division in their short history.

This derby spent the ‘86/’87 season in the fourth tier, the next six years in the third, and six of the following ten years in Segunda.

The two sides finally significantly parted ways in 2003/04. Getafe were promoted to La Liga for the first time in their history, and spent an incredible 23 years there battling with the big boys, getting used to their new surroundings of the summit of Spanish football.

Meanwhile, six kilometres away, their neighbours Leganés found themselves relegated back to the third tier the same year Getafe celebrated reaching the promised land.

The south Madrid rivals had spent decades closely following each other up and down the humble lower leagues, playing their derby up and down the divisions. It was a derby contested by amateur players, a lot of time with roots in the town of their team, who normally had to work other jobs as their real source of income.

“It was a completely different kind of football to today,” José Luis Dorado, Leganés captain for a period between the ‘80s and ‘90s, told El País this week.

“I never stopped working [while playing with Leganés.] I started a small hardware business back then, and I still maintain it to this day. The derbies back then were very tough, with a lot of bite,” Dorado continued.

Getafe’s captain through that time was Pedro Caballero, goalkeeper for the team and born and raised in Getafe, and who works as an environmental inspector in the town. “There was even a certain kind of tension between the players of the two sides off the pitch,” Caballero remembers. “

Apart from the distance between the teams, it was like the Madrid-Barca rivalry during the Mourinho era.

But from 2004 onwards they spent most of their time two divisions away from each other. The rivalry withered to something of a distant memory, a bygone era, as football also developed into the 21st century.

Getafe came with it, but Leganés stayed behind in the third-tier doldrums, until their modern-day miracle.

Against the odds, Leganés went from the third tier in 2013/14 to La Liga in 2016/17.

The year they reached the pinnacle of the Spanish game, Getafe were relegated from the top tier for the first time, just as the derby looked like it was about to return.

They didn’t have to wait too long for it to return though, as Leganés managed to stay up in their first campaign in the top flight, and Getafe returned at the first time of asking.

The first south Madrid derby since 2004, the first south Madrid derby in Primera División, and the first derby in Spain to be played in the fourth, third, second and now first tiers.

Both teams this season will look to rely on their rigid defensive structures in hope of successful seasons, meaning this game could easily have petered out into a drab nil-nil.

It may well have, were it not for the genuine sense of occasion that Friday night’s fixture brought. The stadium was packed and raucous, with fans of both clubs bringing atmosphere, and both sets of players were under no uncertain terms that this was a real derby. Old tensions were given new leases of life.

The game was a free-flowing affair, with chances at both ends. Getafe largely looked to press high up and pressure their counterparts, as Leganés had the impetus to get their feet on the ball in front of their home crowd.

Chances came but none brought a goal – until the ball fell to Getafe’s Mauro Arambarri outside the box and not in a dangerous position.

There didn’t look to be much chance for him to score, but perhaps that hesitation gave him the split second he needed to make his decision and blast the ball into the top corner.

A goal from absolutely nothing turned the heat up on this game five minutes before half time. Leganés responded in the second half with waves of pressure in search of an equaliser. Miguel Guerrero eventually got one, but missed a penalty five minutes later to put the home side ahead.

Momentum died down, before another cracking strike from seemingly no danger put Getafe back in front, this time from Alvaro Jimenez.

The visitors saw the final seven minutes out and brought the three points back home on their very short journey with them.

This historic derby had a bit of everything that football can offer; magnificent goals, rivalry, tension, a saved penalty, and a dramatic climax.

Both teams, including Leganés despite the loss, can take a lot of heart out of their performances, as both showed a lot of quality on the ball and hunger to win.

Should they both maintain that level of performance through the season, one would fancy their chances of avoiding relegation.

And also…

The €140 million euro man is here. Ousmane Dembélé, the most expensive signing in Spanish football history, made his Barcelona debut in the Barcelona derby.

His teammates, or Lionel Messi, couldn’t have given him a much better first appearance in the famous Blaugrana shirt.

The divine Argentine scored a hat-trick to open proceedings in a dominant display for Barcelona, before Dembélé came on from the bench with around 25 minutes to go to show his new fans what he can do.

He picked up his first assist for the club with a pass to Luis Suarez for the fifth in a 5-0 victory over a hapless Espanyol. In the last five Camp Nou Barcelona derbies, Espanyol have conceded: 5, 4, 5, 4, 5.

Real Madrid have dropped points at home for the second time this season, this time to newly promoted Levante.

Juan Carlos Unzue’s Celta Vigo got their first points of the season. They lost their first two after really good performances, and in unlucky circumstances.

Unzue, assistant to Luis Enrique at Barcelona and at Celta, has his new side playing a free-flowing, tiki-taka lite, style of football, and look like they could be one of the most entertaining sides in the division this year.

They beat Alavés 1-0, and things are starting to look really bleak for the Basques. Bojan Krkic, on loan from Stoke City, made his debut for Alavés, and missed a glorious chance to give them an early lead, but fluffed his lines in a simple-looking one-on-one.

Carlos is Bacc-a! (What?! – Editor) Former Sevilla Europa League-winning striker Carlos Bacca is back in La Liga with Villarreal, and scored his first goal for his new club in a fashion that’s worth a watch!

Goal of the week: Mauro Arambarri, Getafe.

Player of the week: Lionel Messi, Barcelona.

La Liga week three results in full: Leganés 1-2 Getafe, Real Madrid 1-1 Levante, Valencia 0-0 Atletico Madrid, Sevilla 3-0 Eibar, Barcelona 5-0 Espanyol, Deportivo La Coruña 2-4 Real Sociedad, Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Girona, Celta Vigo 1-0 Alavés, Villarreal 3-1 Real Betis, Málaga 1-3 Las Palmas.

The Author

Cillian Shields

Cillian Shields is an Irish football writer currently living in Barcelona, focusing on Spain's La Liga. Interests include the intersection of politics and football, football history, and smaller, humble teams with noisy, boisterous fans.

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