Sunday 2nd May, Eibar
BENGOETXEA VI beat BARRIOLA 22-13
Manomanista Group A
Leitza, a town of close to 3000 inhabitants in north western Navarre, is blessed with two of the top pelotaris of their generation. This match in Eibar was a repeat of the 2008 Manomanista final which saw Abel Barriola play Oinatz Bengoetxea in an encounter which divided the population in good natured rivalry. On that occasion Benogetxea took the txapela comfortably by 22 points to 11, confirming the reputation of Barriola as the frequent nearly-man of modern pelota. The 31 year old won the Manomanista in 2002, beating Ruben Beloki to take the crown, but he has since lost the final on two occasions as well as the Cuatro y Medio final four times. It was imperative that he beat Bengoetxea on Sunday in order to keep his 2010 hopes alive but again, it was the younger man who took the spoils.
Things started well enough for Barriola, who took the first point in a monumentally hard fought rally, but from then on Bengoetxea let his intent be known. In an aggressive display, he took the next six points to lead 6-1. He played with immense speed and verve, with his sotomano especially impressive, and hit winners from every angle, producing a txoko, a steepling ball over Barriola’s head, a crosscourt rocket and a dos paredes in quick succession. Although Barriola recovered to a degree, this opening salvo set the tone for the rest of the match, in which the eventual loser was never able to get his nose in front of his opponent.
Bengoetxea relaxed his guard a little in the following points, hitting wide, short and high, and succumbing to the pressure applied by the Barriola serve. Barriola showed his colours here, entering into some titanic rallies, topped off with several impressive winners, and managed to level the score at 8-8. However, the close struggle this suggested did not materialise as from this juncture, Bengoextea held the clear balance of power. Barriola ceded his hard won initiative with three consecutive misses, two from the Bengoetxea serve. Two slightly careless directional mistakes from Bengoetxea kept Barriola in the game at 10-11, but he would add only three more points to that tally. The two continued to attack each other hammer and tongs, but Bengoetxea was faster, more polished, and relentless. Many of his points were handed to him by errors from his opponent, but a large number of these infelicities were enforced by the 2008 champion’s sheer dynamism, and ability to turn defensive positions into ones of strength. Bengoetxea, though he committed seven errors, ended the match with thirteen winners to Barriola’s three.
Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-6, 3-6, 3-7, 6-7, 6-8, 8-8, 8-11, 10-11, 10-16, 11-16, 11-19, 13-19, 13-22.
The situation in Group A is now a little complicated. It can be summed up as follows:
- Irujo is all but assured of a place in the semi-finals, having won both his matches. If he beats Bengoetxea, or loses by seven points or fewer, his place is sealed.
- If Bengoetxea loses, he can only go through if Olaizola I loses to Barriola.
- Olaizola I must beat Barriola to have a chance, and hope that Bengoetxea loses.
- Barriola has a theoretical chance but it is a very slim one; for him to qualify, he would have to win by at least 22-6 over Olaizola I and hope that Bengoetxea loses.
The group resumes in two weeks, with both matches on 16th May. Locations have yet to be announced.
Image from: fotolog