Ramon Azeez was named on the bench for Granada’s La Liga trip to Getafe on Thursday evening.
National team coach Gernot Rohr might have been happy to see one of his players having a reduced part to play after recently bemoaning the fixture list for the 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifiers. Still, it’s fair to say the former Lugo man would have found it a slightly painful watch as his team found themselves 2-0 down after just 41 minutes and having offered little at the other end.
The game itself started as a rather dull affair but, on 35, a penetrative run from Barcelona loanee Marc Cucurella resulted in a chance for Angel Rodriguez and he slammed the ball through the body of Rui Silva for 1-0. Just six minutes after the opener, Azeez would have been pulling his hair out amongst the substitutes as Silva flapped at a corner and found himself in no mans land, gifting Mauro Arambarri the most simplistic of headers from eight yards.
Azeez entered the fray with approximately a quarter of the match remaining and, shortly after his introduction, Granada pulled a goal back. Darwin Machis bought a yard off Cameroonian fullback Allan Nyom and delivered a teasing ball onto the head of Adrian Ramos at the back stick; his header was kept out by David Soria but Azeez’s fellow sub Jose Diaz gobbled up the loose ball to make it 2-1.
The Nigerian was competitive and tidy, as usual, in the middle of the park as Granada went searching for a leveller but with a couple of minutes remaining, Getafe struck to make things safe. Azeez was guilty of a foul in dangerous territory and Granada were made to pay a very harsh price as David Timor struck an unstoppable free kick beyond the wall and in off the bar.
Later this Sunday, however, Azeez was a starter and he played the 90 minutes. Granada would have a chance to go top nonetheless, since Barcelona and Real Madrid slipped. But the Spanish side had a difficult job, to stop Real Sociedad who also had a chance to go top if they win. Portu opened the scoreline and Vadillo equalized before halftime. However, in the last minute, Portu scored his second and Granada dropped to 6th.
Despite the two defeats, Granada have been one of – if not the – surprise packages of European football so far this season as they mix it up at the top of the Spanish main tier with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona. The team was just promoted this season and were tipped to battle for relegation. To put it in perspective, would be like the Cincinatti Bengals or the Miami Dolphins going from underachievers, to SuperBowl playoff betting favorites.
After the El Clasico being postponed, which was scheduled to take place on the weekend just gone, the Nazaries have blown their chance to move back to the head of the pack and, instead, they’ll have to be content with their third place spot as we move into November.
Diego Martinez, Granada’s head coach, is rightly receiving the plaudits for his teams start to the season after winning promotion as runners up of Segunda B last year but, regardless of having conceded the foul for Getafe’s third goal, it’s fair to say that our own Super Eagle, Azeez, has contributed positively to their displays.
The midfielder has bagged two goals in nine appearances so far – including one in the two-goal victory over Barca – and Granada are yet to drop points in a match where Azeez has featured for more than 60 minutes.
The form Azeez has shown since moving to Granada in January hasn’t gone unnoticed by Rohr and his staff who recalled him after a five year absence from the national squad – his last appearance came in the 3-2 defeat at the hands of DR Congo in September 2014 – for the friendly draw with
Brazil a couple of weeks ago and, after a six minute cameo, he’ll have another chance to impress when the squad, which includes fellow La Liga players Chidozie Awaziem (Leganes) and Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal), get together for the matches against Benin and Lesotho in two weeks time.