According to Newton’s Law, force is calculated by multiplying mass and acceleration. However, this law does not address the concept of a penalty. Rafa Benítez believes that it should, especially after his team’s disappointing weekend that left them in the relegation zone. As fans expressed their frustration by whistling and waving white handkerchiefs, Benítez quickly flipped through Principia on his way to meet with the media. Instead of focusing on the referee and other officials involved in the game, Benítez suggested that what is truly needed is a physicist. He even proposed traveling to Nasa to find the best one.
Anything would be an improvement compared to this. The night after Benítez declared that his team would persist despite being “tripped up” countless times and before the largest newspaper in the city labeled them as Spanish football’s scapegoat, he bemoaned the fact that this was a recurring issue. The fans would concur, not only for the reasons he provided. “Once again, we’re discussing our strong performance and numerous opportunities,” Benítez stated on Saturday as they made their way home through the tumultuous weather. “And once again, we failed to secure three points.”
For the first time in seven weeks and only the second time this season, they believed they were going to win. However, their hope was short-lived as they were ultimately disappointed. Despite starting off with protests and ending with their own issues, Celta was able to find something to celebrate – a chance to turn things around. Unfortunately, this momentary success only lasted three minutes and thirty-five seconds, while the consequences of their loss lasted much longer. In the end, it was Sevilla who was saved from defeat, not for the first time.
Celta was initially winning against Sevilla, who were the stronger team. However, in the eighty-fourth minute, Yousuf En Nesyri scored a goal, tying the game at 1-1 in Balaídos. This left Celta in danger of suffering another late and painful defeat. Fortunately, they were relieved to see Ivan Rakitic’s shot go over the goal on 91.04 and Adrià Pedrosa miss a chance to score on 92.26. Despite being down to 10 players, they managed to hold on for a decent draw. The crowd at Balaídos anxiously awaited the end of the game and erupted in cheers when goalkeeper Vicente Guaita caught a cross at 95.15 out of 96 minutes. However, their luck improved even more when they were awarded a penalty with only five seconds remaining.
A long pass from the right flew over Tasos Douvikas’s head and he fell in front of the goal. The referee, Alejandro Hernández Hernández, awarded a penalty. The bench and the crowd erupted in celebration. Carlos Dotor, who delivered the pass, spun around and cheered. Unai Núñez held onto Douvakis tightly. Although there was a possibility of missing the penalty, this was their chance to secure their first home win of the season and climb out of the relegation zone. It was a fortunate and somewhat silly penalty, as Jesús Navas had pulled on Douvikas’s arm and there may have been contact with the ankle. In the pouring rain, Hernández Hernández had no doubts in his decision.
Eduardo Prieto Iglesias made a decision in a small room located in Las Rozas, which is 551km south-east of the location. A conversation took place, lasting a couple of minutes, and Hernández Hernández attempted to view the screen but was blocked by players. Celta captain Iago Aspas left the bench where he was watching on an iPad to join the group. A crowd gathered around him, trying to catch a glimpse of the screen, similar to fans watching a penalty from outside a pub. The images on the screen were paused, played, slowed down, and frozen. Finally, at 99.30, the referee announced that there was no penalty after all.
In a fit of anger, Aspas gestured for his team to leave the field. He then angrily threw the VAR screen to the ground, standing up for what is right, but ultimately resulting in a ban despite his apology the following day. While it’s acceptable to push a player, damaging the equipment is not. Benítez disapproved silently, repeatedly muttering “unbelievable” and giving a fierce stare to the three officials as they walked off the field. The crowd began chanting “Hands up, this is a robbery!” and in the PA booth, someone put on a Raphael CD, causing the fans to start dancing. The song choice? “Escándalo”. Sevilla winger Lucas Ocampos acknowledged, “I can understand why they’re frustrated.”
Upon arriving at the press room, Benítez wasted no time in providing his first response. He proceeded to share some facts, stating that force is determined by multiplying mass and acceleration, and is measured in Newtons. He then questioned how much force is necessary for a player to fall, suggesting the possibility of consulting a physicist and utilizing their expertise in the VAR room. He even joked about asking NASA for assistance. However, when a reporter commented on his sense of humor, Benítez clarified that it was not meant as a joke but rather a sense of resignation.
Aspas expressed, “It’s become a pattern where whenever we start to gain momentum, the opposing team brings us down again. Even though it’s happened repeatedly, we’re now 12 weeks into the season and we’ve lost seven games due to unfavorable calls. How can the referee review the force of a pull when they’ve already made a decision? What will the VAR show? Considering all the calls that have gone against us, we should be closer to being in the top spots for the Champions League.”
Celta has had several instances of goals being disallowed against Mallorca, Real Madrid, Las Palmas, and Girona. The decision at Montilivi last week was particularly absurd, and even Benítez couldn’t believe there was no goalline technology in place at Mallorca. Two weeks ago, Celta sent a group of representatives to Madrid to speak with the head of the referees and politely inquire about the situation, according to the coach. On Saturday, there were already protests in the 12th minute, as placards were held up demanding respect. And in the 99th minute, this happened.
While the idea of blaming refereeing decisions may offer some consolation and an external scapegoat, it does not fully explain the predicament that Celta Vigo finds themselves in. Despite their survival on the final day of last season, the club has experienced significant changes, including the departure of their top young player and a sporting director who also works for PSG. Additionally, despite making six signings in the summer, they failed to address a major gap in their midfield. This is a club that heavily relies on Iago Aspas, who not only serves as a youth teamer, leader, captain, and potentially future sporting director, but has also single-handedly saved them on three separate occasions. Yet, even at 36 years old, he cannot carry the team forever and has expressed concerns about the lack of talent on the team.
Celta has performed better than their results suggest, as has Aspas. He has created the most chances and only taken four shots less than Iñaki Williams, who is currently at the top. Celta ranks among the top teams in terms of opportunities and shots taken, with only Barcelona, Madrid, and Sevilla having more chances and seven teams taking more shots. They have only been beaten by more than one goal twice. In their 3-0 loss to Atlético, they had more shots, and in their 2-2 draw with Getafe, the tally showed 26-3 in their favor. Madrid’s victory was only secured by a Bellingham goal, and they were leading 2-0 against Barcelona with only eight minutes left in the game.
However, they were defeated in the game with a score of 3-2 due to two late goals scored at the 81st and 97th minute. This happened in their matches against Las Palmas and Girona, where they lost in the 91st minute. These two games have been the trend for them, as they tend to fade after an hour. They have only won one game this season, which was against Almería. Despite having many opportunities, they have scored fewer goals compared to teams like Las Palmas, Cádiz, and Alavés. As for their top scorer Aspas, who has been the top scorer for the past eight years, his recent performances have been disappointing. He has scored 18, 26, 23, 21, 14, 14, 18, and 12 goals in the previous years but has not scored a single goal since March. This decline in his performance is concerning but it is not just about their position in the Champions League. They are currently 18 points and 14 places away from the top spot, which is a worrying situation. These numbers are far from ideal and it is a cause for concern for the team.
Additionally, if that situation was already unfortunate, it became even worse at Peinador Airport, which was 18km away. The same injustice was repeated, but this time it was much more severe. A bureaucrat, working from an unknown location, intervened and saved Sevilla once again, benefiting from yet another poor decision. When Diego Alonso’s team arrived at the airport, they encountered a technical issue with their plane, preventing them from flying. As a result, Air Nostrum cancelled their flight and took over a flight to Madrid instead. This resulted in the passengers who were supposed to be on board being kicked off and replaced with football players. The passengers not only missed out on a penalty, but they also lost their entire plane, leaving them stranded in Galicia. Meanwhile, Celta’s opponents flew back home with someone else’s wings and victory.