Friday 29th January, Amorebieta-Etxano
TITIN III – PASCUAL beat BERASALUZE VIII – BEGINO 22-15
On Friday night, the people of Amorebieta witnessed an enthralling match, which ebbed and flowed like the tide of the Bizkaia coastline. As is often the case, most eyes were on the forwards. Titin III has played in a way which has belied his years in this tournament so far and applies boundless determination to everything he does. Tenacity is the word which comes to mind at the name of Berasaluze VIII. Pablito is a compact cannonball of a player who throws himself at anything and everything. However fascinating the fight up front though, the defenders were the difference here. Their trade is not as glamorous, not as flashy, as that of their attacking partners. It is rarely left to defenders to fling pinpoint perfect gantxos across the frontis, or to make the crowd gasp, but without a solid defender there is no platform for attack. Rare is the defender who can make something positive out of a desperate rearguard action, and Titin must therefore give thanks daily for the presence of Inigo Pascual at his rear. Berasaluze had no such magic carpet to ride.
The match began positively for Pablito and Begino. The Asegarce pair had failed to fire in the tournament, as they did last year, and for a while it looked as if they had resurrected their touch, assuming a 1-7 lead. The ball was set in motion by two rather ring rusty errors from Titin, but winners abounded too. Berasaluze’s serve was a dominant weapon which set the scene for several beautifully worked set pieces, and Begino, showing a clear intention to test Pascual, managed a rebote which proved unplayable. However, the Aspe pair rallied with intent, drew level at 7-7, and then edged ahead. Begino committed his first two errors at this juncture and they could be seen as symptomatic of what was to come. Pascual’s long range hitting game swung into gear and Titin loosened his arm, outmanoeuvring Berasaluze easily before finishing him off by hitting into clear space.
The middle phase of the encounter was tight and edgy, with the pairs tied at 9-9, 10-10 and 12-12. There were impressive winners from both forwards, as well as, less positively for Berasaluze, a falta, and the battle of the gargantuan strikes from the defenders continued: Pascual sent a searing ball spiralling long and high at a hapless Begino on 9-9 and Begino managed another impressive rebote on 12-12. The Asegarce partnership fought their way to a three point lead at 12-15 and looked composed and set to battle to the death.
However, the game swung in the blink of an eye, and the sea change centred on Begino. In the last nine points of the match, which took the score from 13-15 to 22-15, Begino made seven errors. His misdemeanours came in all forms, from total miscues, to misdirected and mistimed strikes, to overambitious attempted winners. He continued to test Pascual with high bombs but the Aspe defender was more than up to the task, returning everything with interest. The miracle Pascual pulled off to take the score to 20-15 was the shot of the match; pinned to the back wall, he did well to return a long ball in the right direction. Few could have turned it into a winner. True, the losing pair assumed he would not make it until it was too late to get in position for the return, but it underlined both the skill of Pascual and the never say die attitude of his partnership. As Begino lost the plot, his opposite number took up the thread and created a masterpiece.
It is obvious from the mounting error count of Begino that the varying fortunes of the defenders decided the outcome of this match. Pascual, while not free from all error, was a tower of strength, whereas Begino, for all his clever early tactics, crumbled in an instant. Titin also played a blinding game, all swagger and fight. Berasaluze was almost Titin’s equal and deserves credit for some exhilarating play, but Begino became a millstone. This was the third win of the tournament for Titin and Pascual, who now go second in the table. Berasaluze and Begino need to initiate a winning streak if they are going to play a part in the semi finals.
Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 1-7, 7-7, 8-7, 8-8, 8-9, 9-9, 10-9, 10-10, 10-12, 11-12, 12-12, 12-15, 22-15.
Image from: Diario de Navarra