Cardeñosa and Chano.

HISTORY / That time when Betis gave Eibar a hand

In the last match of the 1989/90 season, Real Betis won at Santander and allowed SD Eibar to avoid relegation from Second Division

By Manolo Rodríguez

At the end of May of 1990, Real Betis got promoted to the First Division. It was the unnegotiable target of the season and it was in danger for some time. For this reason, a change in the bench was made six matches before the end of the season. Juan Corbacho was dismissed after a defeat at Castilla's ground and Julio Cardeñosa, a Green and White icon, took the reins in this state of emergency.

And Cardeñosa managed to pull it off one week before the end of the season. Something beautiful that happened on Sunday the 20th of May against Sabadell. People were happy, crying out of joy. Heliópolis got filled with flags and Betis could finally breathe after the bad previous year.

The day after, there were doubts about if the chairman, Hugo Galera, was going to continue. However, the question was solved in a few hours. Galera accepted to call for an election and he presented his own candidacy. A thoughtful and responsible decision that made him suffer a lot in the following years due to a new relegation, the frustrated try of selling the stadium and, specially, the difficult process of turning the club into a public limited company.

On Thursday the 24th of May, the team played a friendly match against Stuttgart to pay tribute to the fans.

The match finished 0-0, but it was full of emotional moments. As a finishing touch, Hipólito Rincón received Real Betis honour badge in his retirement day. The second one the striker received, as he was already awarded with it when he became LaLiga top-scorer in 1983.

To summarise, everything was happiness and celebration during those days. There were many talks about the future and possible signings, though, but there was still one match left to play. The last of the season. A key date for many teams.

Mainly, because Betis had to finish the season at Santander against Racing, a team that, in that moment, only needed one point to remain in the division. The team from Cantabria had started the seasons with the target of getting promoted, but after their head coach (José Armando Ufarte, legendary Atletico de Madrid player) was dismissed, the club was immersed in a negative turmoil and they were at that point of the season fighting for survival.

SD Eibar were just behind them. The Basque team came to the last game after five games undefeated and had to play their last match at Espanyol, a team that had lost their chances of straight promotion because of Betis and that now had to fight for the promotion in a play-off against the third to last team in the First Division.

Many rumours sparked in the eve of the match. As it is normal in these situations. It was said that Betis and Racing had made a pact for a tie; that Espanyol wanted to lose so they would play the promotion play-off against Malaga instead of Tenerife and, of course, there were talks about bonuses between teams.

The matchday begins amidst anxiety and tension. The attendance at Sardinero stadium fills half of the stands and they are quite confident about what is going to happen. The numbers are clear: as long as they don't lose against Betis, they are saved. Regardless of what Eibar could do.

Before the game starts, Julio Cardeñosa speaks for the TV. With all seriousness, he denies that is any payment implicit and he assures that the Green and Whites are going for the win. No doubt about it.

Betis wears green shirt and white trunks, and these were the line-ups:

Racing de Santander: Ceballos, Revilla, Javi, García-Jiménez, Juan Carlos, Gelucho, Mauri, Cinho (Pedrazzi 75'), Geli, Pedraza, Marcelino (Miró 57').

Real Betis: Trujillo, León, Abel, Miguel Ángel I, Rubén Bilbao (Job 71'), Monsalvete, Chano, José Luis, Neiman (Oliveira 61'), Melenas, Mel.

Not much occurs in the first half. Almost anything. Tense calm. Meanwhile, goals start to pour down at Sarriá, where Espanyol are beating Eibar 2-1 at half time. Racing fans remain calm. How could anyone think that thinks were going to change so dramatically?

But they do change. Classic situation in football. In the second half, Betis crush their rival lead by a great performance from Chano, a midfielder in his prime who looks like becoming a star.

Under his command, the Green and Whites dominate the game and start to show it in the score. The first goal is a magnificent 40-yard free kick that Chano scores. A few minutes later, Pepe Mel (second division top scorer that season) finishes a cross delivered by Chano. Fifteen minutes into de second half and 0-2 in the score. However, there are no news from Sarriá.

However, the final quarter of an hour is going to be tragic for Racing. In the 71st minute, Chano scores the 0-3. At the same time, Eibar ties up in Barcelona. People are puzzled.

Even more when, four minutes later, Eibar turns the score around at Espanyol's ground and leads 2-3. Racing fans start to panic and the goal scored by their team doesn't bring any comfort. Everything is done.

Eibar is going to stay in Second Division (where, after the year, they stayed for 16 straight seasons) and Racing goes down to Segunda B. In the following days, there were many talks about the payment made by the Basques.