The 2022-23 La Liga season kicked off under leaden skies and showery rain on Tuesday evening, but it didn’t dampen spirits nor could prevent a downpour of goals with 36 netted in nine games played. And the big hitters didn’t disappoint with Paget and Abbey laying down hefty markers with Short Heath and St Bernadette’s also flexing their muscles.
Holly Lane made its maiden appearance as an ESPSFA host ground and welcomed last season’s La Liga champions, Paget, former Premier Division side, Harper Bell and the returning Gunter, on this opening night. And it was Gunter who had the honour of commencing against Paget and despite a 5-0 win for the champs, Gunter never gave in. Gunter remained strong and positive until the final whistle and to their credit, kept heads high. Gunter then had to go again and faced a Harper Bell side buoyed by decent pre-season results. Bell had to dig deep and fight hard to secure a 2-1 win with Gunter again giving their all but just coming up short. Gunter can count themselves unlucky to have come out of their opening fixtures with zero points, but they will be better for the experience and more positive results will greet them as the season progresses. With that hard, but well-earned three points under their belt, Bell could look forward to their clash with Paget. Bell though were under the cosh from the kick-off and Paget were quick about their business. The Pype Hayes-side turned on the style in the opening half, scoring four excellent goals. And they didn’t relent in the second stanza as they were encouraged to keep pushing for goals and as Harper Bell legs tired, Paget did just that, finding the net a further four times without reply. Like Gunter, Harper Bell can take encouragement from their opening La Liga games and could at least take three points back to Digbeth with them.
Across in Shard End, Hillstone were hosting Shorth Heath – aiming to put that play-off final defeat back in June firmly behind them – and St Bernadette’s who may well be a dark horse for honours this season after a terrific showing in the Year 5 tournament in July. Hillstone began proceedings against Short Heath and the Heathens created a plethora of chances in a a dominant display but had to settle for a 3-0 win. Heath then faced a sterner test against St Bernadette’s and like the Hillstone game, had a number of opportunities to take all three points: they hit the post, the crossbar and were denied by some excellent goal-keeping. It was just ‘one of those days at the office’ for Short Heath as Bernie’s stood firm and battled away to earn a point in a 1-1 draw. In the evening’s other fixture at Hillstone, the home side suffered another defeat this time going down narrowly, 1-0 to St Bernadette’s who were happy enough to take 4 points back to Hobmoor Road. Some great football on display though from all three teams involved so well done to all!
The remaining three fixtures in La Liga this evening were at St Barnabas where Abbey, unusually trophy-less last term, well and truly stated their intentions this season comfortably dispatching their opponents. The Amber and Blacks handed out 6-1 and 5-1 defeats to Firs and St Barnabas respectively. St Barnabas did manage to get over line in the final game of the night with a 1-0 victory against a valiant Firs side. Good sportsmanship all round from the three sides which is always great to hear.
So there it is the opening night over and the fledgling league table has a familiar look to it: Paget top, Abbey second and Short Heath, third. A brilliant opening night with many more to come – it’s good to be back!