Berasaluze saves the blushes of Albisu as rivals fall away

Sunday 26th February, Eibar


Pairs Championship

It looked to all the world as if Aritz Lasa and Penagarikano were going to take the win they so badly needed at Astelena last night. Lasa was playing excellently, with accuracy and real verve, and Albisu appeared trapped in a sequence of inaccuracy and self-doubt. The Aspe pair led comfortably from the off and although their opponents came back at them, they held them at bay. However, keeping Pablo Berasaluze down is never simple and just when the situation was becoming critical for his team, he produced the goods to maintain their qualification chances. Meanwhile, the afflicted Aitor Zubieta could only sit in the stands and watch as his proxy, Penagarikano, felt the heat and let everything slip.

Albisu was the culprit in the red pair’s early demise. In the second play of the match he left a long, spiralling ball from Lasa which looked to be going wide. When it fell in, his face was a picture of consternation. He then went on to miscue the ball three times in a row and before anyone had had time to blink, it was 0-5. Berasaluze and Albisu gradually pulled points back, and the latter did well to bomb Penagarikano into submission to get them off the mark. Berasaluze showed himself able to turn on the style when needed, and produced a whirlwind period of play between 7-12 and 12-13 to bring his pair right back into touch. When on 4-10, Albisu threw away a golden position in going high trying to get the ball over his opponent’s head, Berasaluze seized the serve back with a gantxo. When Lasa exerted excellent control to take the score to 6-12, Berasaluze jumped back in with two winners in a row. Albisu played his part with a long ball which trapped Penagarikano against the back wall but when he faltered in the next point, Berasaluze again rescued the momentum with a hat trick of winners. With a gap of only one point, the match had taken on a very different complexion and this was down almost entirely to the tenacity of the man from Berriz.

Lasa and Penagarikano stopped the rot and extended their advantage to four again at 12-16, but sensing the situation was now very dangerous, Berasaluze moved again. Penagarikano had hitherto played very well indeed but as Berasaluze turned the screw, he faltered, committing a string of errors right at the death. There was little Lasa could do to rescue him in the face of his opposite number, who took all the pressure off his ailing defensive partner and deposited it elsewhere. This was an opportunity too good to miss for the Aspe pair to secure a crucial win, with Lasa on song and Albisu out of form. It is to Berasaluze’s credit that they failed to drive it home.

Scoring sequence: 0-5, 1-5, 1-7, 2-7, 4-7, 4-11, 6-11, 6-12, 9-12, 9-13, 10-13, 12-13, 12-16, 16-16, 16-17, 17-17, 21-17, 21-18, 22-18.

Winners/errors: Berasaluze 13/2, Lasa 7/0, Albisu 5/8, Penagarikano ¼

Match time: 1:04.43 with 21:49 of actual play

Balls hit: 414

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