Rule #1 when playing against Alegría: Do not, under any circumstances, put Sapo Caset on the penalty line—especially in overtime. Just as he did in England this summer, Caset made the golden goal against La Albertina Abu Dhabi on a penalty shot yesterday in the Hurlingham Open. Alegría took an 8-7 win.
A master at controlling his nerves, Caset did what he always does when he finds himself inside a pressure cooker: focus on his breathing (Some players have a lot more Zen in them than you might think). He was a perfect 3/3 from the line and drew the foul on two of the last three La Albertina infractions, including the final one.
The game was one of the most entertaining match-ups of the year. It was a back-and-forth affair, with teams alternating on making the first nine goals of the game. The score was tied six times. While it could have gone either way, the persistence of Caset on the attack, particularly in the latter part of the game, tipped the scales.
The day was a superb defensive performance for La Albertina, who is playing the Hurlingham Open for the first time ever and has surprised those who discounted them. Alfredo Cappella was effective using his backhand and Fran Elizalde was active up front, which continually pressured Fred Mannix defensively.
“It was a very intense match,” said Mannix after the game. “That’s a very good team. The two brothers played awesome together, Fran is a great player, and Cappella in the back is amazing. They played very well, and they could have beaten us. In the last moments I think it was a little bit of luck and teamwork. We were lucky to escape with a win.”
Alegría produced more shots, but quite a few were from distance, which led to a low conversion rate. Caset didn't convert at his normal rate individually but was effective in getting the ball deeper into La Albertina territory and providing Alegría with scoring chances while limiting their opponent’s chances. Although he was only 2/11 from the field, no other player had more than six shot attempts, which shows how active Caset was in the game.
Caset continues to be the top offensive player for Alegría, scoring 23 goals in 3 games so far in the Hurlingham Open (7.7 goals per game) while his next closest rival is teammate Hilario Ulloa, with 6 goals. La Albertina wisely focused on keeping Caset and Ulloa in front of them and used the backhand to reverse the direction of the ball and keep it away from them. That’s what kept them competitive against Alegría.
Their performance should be a red flag to La Albertina’s next opponent. As Mannix said, “They will not be a team that’s easy to beat in Palermo. I’m sure a lot of teams will be preparing very seriously against them.”
Alegría, meanwhile, is preparing to play La Dolfina next Saturday, October 21. “We have to make sure that we play better against La Dolfina because otherwise they’re going to beat us,” he said. “We need to raise the game, prepare, have team meetings, speak with our coach and trainers and get to 100 percent of our peak—because if you aren’t, you can’t win against La Dolfina. They’re looking really, really strong.”
-Alegría shot 5/19 (26%); La Albertina 4/12 (33%).
-La Albertina didn’t get first lead until the 5th chukker (4-3).
-Six combined fouls for La Albertina in chukkers 6, 7 and 8 led to three penalty goals for Caset.
Photos by Katerina Morgan Photography