November 26, 2016 9:41:46 am
Eibar has taken the Spanish league’s smallest stadium and turned it into its very own fortress. Eibar beat 10-man Real Betis 3-1 on Friday for its fifth win in seven home matches this season.
With a capacity for only 6,285 spectators, Ipurua Stadium fits the identity of the modest, but feisty Basque Country club, and the northern working class town of Eibar that once thrived from small arms manufacturing.
Eibar’s third win in a row at its ground lifted it past regional heavyweight Athletic Bilbao and into seventh place. Eibar also pulled level on points with title hopeful Atletico Madrid. Both Bilbao and Atletico play this weekend.
“We know how important this stadium is for us,” said forward Pedro Leon, who scored Eibar’s opener. “We are competing well. The important thing is that we took the three points because we can’t forget that we are Eibar and that we will suffer sooner or later.”
Japanese forward Takashi Inui led the hosts, earning a foul that left Betis a man down and playing a part in two goals.
Inui slipped past the defensive line and received a pass in the 17th minute, when he was fouled by Cristiano Puccini from behind with only the goalkeeper to beat. That earned Piccini a sending off with a direct red card.
Leon converted the resulting free kick from just outside the area into a goal with a right-footed strike that dipped over the barrier and beyond the reach of Antonio Adan.
Inui helped double the lead five minutes later when he fired in a well-placed cross for Sergi Enrich to stab home. Inui had a great chance to get a goal of his own late in the second half, but Adan made a superb one-handed save to deny him from close.
Betis striker Ruben Castro intercepted a poor pass by Florian Lejeune meant for his goalie and scored with six minutes remaining.
But Eibar substitute Enrique Garcia headed in a rebound to end Betis’ fight back in stoppage time.
Ipurua is by far the tiniest stadium in Spain’s first division. No other stadium for the 20 topflight teams has fewer than 10,000 seats. The average is around 40,000, with Barcelona’s Camp Nou with a capacity for 98,000 making it the largest in Europe.
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