Tony Adams strolled out to the middle of the pitch and shook his players by the hand, one by one, then turned towards the supporters who had sat behind his bench and applauded them. There was appreciation but no celebration. In the final15 minutes at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium there were real signs of life from his team but by then it was too late in this, his second match as coach of Granada. In all probability it is too late, full stop. His team were two goals behind Sevilla and they are seven points behind safety.
Three wonderful chances slipped through their fingers in those final minutes, Ezequiel Ponce and Mehdi Carcela the men who had them, and there was spark too from Andreas Pereira. But Granada had been behind since the third minute and while Adams was pleased with how they played, perhaps they had been allowed back into a game that was drifting to a conclusion precisely because their opponents felt so safe.
Safety is not something that Granada can cling to and despite that late rebellion this is a team that are sunk. “Two games, five goals conceded, you’re down, aren’t you?” Adams was asked afterwards. “Thanks, lovely to meet you too,” he replied. He knows there is truth in that, though, and talked more afterwards about planning for next season than hopes for this. He even likened this to pre-season, in preparation for next year, which will surely be spent in the second division. “The thing is, Sevilla are a hell of a press on friendly,” he said.
The new sporting director will be named next week and this season is all but gone now, he knows. Second bottom and seven points from safety, with only five games to go. Sporting Gijón remain two points ahead and go to Osasuna tomorrow, a game they will expect to win. The team they both are chasing and must catch to have any chance of survival are Leganés, who stay five points ahead of Granada and go to Villarreal.
The distance is great and has not been reduced. Adams has not seen his team score in two games; he has though seen them concede five– and, while he was positive, pleased with what he had seen, it might even have been more here, Sevilla registering 28 shots.
Granada were a goal down after three minutes, when Paulo Ganso finished left-footed beyond Memo Ochoa. It was the first time he had played since November, and it had not even been the first opportunity for the home side either. Vicente Iborra had already hit the bar by then. Granada’s Matthieu Saunier had already gone down needing treatment, too – and he was withdrawn immediately after the goal. Gaston Silva was withdrawn 15 minutes later and replaced by Isaac Cuenca.
As Harry Redknapp used to say, we’re down to the bare bones,” Adams said. “I think I’m going to have to play the next game.”
Although they did improve a little as the first half went on, any hope was soon taken away and the overwhelming sensation here was of a team that are too easily defeated. Fifty-six seconds into the second half they were two down. Again, it was Ganso and the finish was easy, rolled in from a couple of yards after Pablo Sarabia had run into the area on the left.
More could have followed. The Granada goalkeeper Memo Ochoa has made more saves than anyone else in Spain this season, not least because he has to – and he made more here. Twice more Sevilla had the ball in the net, but both were ruled out. Granada grew, Ponce showing superb footwork and Carcela curling wide, as Adams watched. There was something good to grasp hold of, he insisted, and he again reiterated that at Granada he is building a team. There is a future but it is in the second division.