Pablo Berasaluze and Jon Ander Albisu finally grabbed their first point of the championships on Friday in Mungia, defeating Sebastien Gonzalez and Aitor Zubieta 22-16. The match was coloured by the state of Gonzalez’s health; the Aspe forward was indisposed and obviously hampered by a gastrointestinal problem. Despite a string of winners from Berasaluze, taking advantage of his less than healthy opponent, the defenders were the stars of the show, with Zubieta showing the greater consistency. Unfortunately for him though, the win was out of reach. Both pairs have now won one match and lost four, and must lift themselves before their deficit on the top pairings becomes insurmountable.
Scoring sequence: 0-1/1/4-1/4-2/7-2/7-4/9-4/9-6/10-6/10-8/13-8/13-10/14-10/14/15/19-13/19-16/22-16/
Winners/errors: Berasaluze 13/4 (including 3 service winners), Gonzalez 7/7 (including one service winner and one service fault), Albisu 1/4, Zubieta 1/1
Match time: 75 minutes with 25 minutes of actual play
Balls hit: 496
Victory for Pablo Berasaluze
Oinatz Bengoetxea and Mikel Beroiz maintained their unbeaten record in Eibar on Sunday, though in rather unusual circumstances. The top pair ran out 22-16 winners over Xala and Barriola in an official sense, but the game was brought to a premature halt with the latter pair leading 16-15 following an injury to Xala. The game had been an extraordinary one, cheered to the rafters of Astelena by an enthusiastic crowd. Bengoetxea and Beroiz opened their account in dominating fashion, racing to a 13-2 lead. Once Xala and Barriola hit their stride however, the momentum swung entirely as they seized thirteen points in a row to tie affairs at 13-13, before going ahead 14-13 and 16-14. Xala was the star of the show, racking up ten winners in this run and repeatedly beating Bengoetxea into submission. However, it all fell apart for the resurgent forward as he was forced to leave the fronton with pain in his leg. He returned to the fray, giving hope that his disappearance had been a false alarm, but he proved unable to continue. He has since been diagnosed with a partial tear of the hamstring and will be out of action for between three and four weeks. Jon Jaunarena, last year’s triple promocion txapela winner, will replace him on Friday against Berasaluze and Albisu.
Scoring sequence: 1-0/ 1/ 1-6/ 2-6/ 2-11/ 3-11/ 2-13/ 13/ 14-13/ 14/ 16-14/ 16-15
Winners/errors: Xala 10/2, Bengoetxea 10/5 (including 2 service winners), Barriola 0/3, Beroiz 1/0
Match time: 63 minutes with 22 minutes of actual play
Abel Barriola: stopped in his tracks by Xala's injury
Zabaleta was the MVP as he and Juan Martinez de Irujo defeated Aimar Olaizola and Ibai Zabala 22-16 in Bilbao. The blue pair succeeded where others have struggled in essentially removing Olaizola from the game. Ibai Zabala has played better than many had expected thus far in the tournament but until now he had never really been exposed, with Olaizola shouldering the lion’s share of the work. However, Irujo and Zabaleta came into the match with a clear strategy and had the skill to see it through; there was very little Olaizola, repeatedly bypassed at the front, could do to rescue Zabala from the bombing meted out to him by Zabaleta, a championship debutante who is truly coming of age. The Asegarce pair held on well until the mid-point, indeed they went ahead 12-8. Olaizola and Irujo fought tooth and nail but neither could create a decisive break, while Zabala held his own with Zabaleta. However, once their opponents had pulled it back to 14-14 there was no looking back as Zabaleta pulled them into the ascendancy. It was a plan excellently conceived and perfectly executed, which led to a deserved win. This is the fourth triumph form Irujo and Zabaleta, who look to be coming to the boil nicely. The jury is still out on the pairing of Olaizola and Ibai Zabala; they have won two and lost three, one of which was agonisingly close to a win, and their path could still go one of two ways. Will more pairs be able to expose Zabala while obviating his great partner?
Scoring sequence: 2-1/3-2/3-3/4-4/6-5/7-7/9-8/10-8/12-9/13-13/14-14/15-17/15-18/16-20/16-22
Winners/errors: Olaizola 7/3 (including 4 service winners), Irujo 12/5 (including 1 service winner), Zabala 2/3, Zabaleta 2/2
Match time: 73.23 minutes with 34.27 of actual play
Balls hit: 624
Jose Javier Zabaleta played his part to perfection
Defending champions Titin III and Merino II made the most of their home advantage in Logrono but were pushed hard in their 22-18 win over Arretxe II and Begino on Sunday. The Riojans started strongly, going up 6-1 and then 10-5. Arretxe and Begino were slow to get into the game but when they did, they fought hard to try and close the gap, something they did not quite manage though they came to within two points at 13-15. Titin and Merino halted the comeback and began to eke out a bigger advantage, looking on the cusp of victory at 19-14. However, Arrexte and Begino refused to lie down and struck three times in a row to close to 18-21. However, it was too little too late; while forced to react to their dogged play, the champions had always kept their rivals at arm’s reach and held on for a 22-18 win. This is their third victory of the campaign and it keeps them in the mix in third place in the table. Arretxe and Begino, with a lone win to their name, are bottom.
Home win in La Rioja for David Merino
(All photos are mine)
Table after five weeks:
||Martinez de Irujo-Zabaleta
||Titin III-Merino II
||Olaizola II-Ibai Zabala