Sitting in 17th in La Liga standings, only four points in front of the last-placed Malaga, Spanish side Las Palmas have a huge road ahead of them.
The Canary Islands-based side has thus far endured a difficult campaign which was arguably most graphically illustrated through back-to-back whitewashes – albeit in two different competitions – earlier in January when poor Las Palmas first suffered a 4-0 Copa del Rey beating at the hands of Valencia before being thumped by Girona 6-0 in La Liga.
The single bright distinction in otherwise disappointing ten-goal glut turned out to be the re-introduction of Alen Halilovic, the 21-year-old midfielder once dubbed the ‘Croatian Messi’ who – like many similar talents – largely failed to live up to his overhyped reputation.
The pressure of high expectations in combination to some poor choices and ultimately – and most recently – fitness problems, all cumulatively contributed to Alen Halilovic’s fall from grace which was well-documented across the European football media.
The Croat’s fate suffered a turn from bad to worse back in October 2017, when Halilovic was expected to make the most of his 18-month loan spell from Hamburg. But instead of hitting it big with La Liga side, Halilovic picked up an injury in the match against Athletic Bilbao.
Initially predicted to remain two months in the treatment room, Halilovic was forced to nurse his knee operation longer than expected.
Coming back from a devastating four-month spell on the sidelines in January 2018, Halilovic played his first minutes of competitive football in aforementioned defeats but made little difference in overall disappointing displays. His double-game cameo, however, offered a promise and presented Las Palmas with a much-needed spark which caught fire last time out – in a Monday night match against direct relegation rivals Malaga.
The Sign of Things to Come?
Las Palmas hosted Malaga at the Estadio de Gran Canaria in what was the closing match of the La Liga Round 22.
Full 90 minutes offered little more than a dull display by both sides and a goalless draw seemed like the fairest result. Enter Alen Halilovic, the heavily disputed Croatian international, who was introduced two minutes after the hour mark when he replaced Nacho.
With good number of fans already on their way out of the stadium, Halilovic picked up on a rebound inside the box, calmly steadied it on his chest before unleashing a volley towards Jimenez’s goal. The ball bounced off inside the left post with Halilovic singlehandedly earning his team a consecutive La Liga win following the 2-1 triumph over Valencia.
Halilovic ended up scoring his first Las Palmas goal after 25 appearances but he could not have dreamt of the better timing.
— Simon Braasch (@BraaschS) February 5, 2018
“We gained three very important points but we can’t stop now, there is another key game ahead of us and we need to keep working hard”, Halilovic was quoted by Mundo Deportivo in reference to Las Palmas’ trip to Athlertic Bilbao scheduled for Friday, 9 February 2018.
Paco Jemez’s men have been given huge 11/2 betting odds to claim third win on the trot, but they face a challenging task against of the Basque side.
Visitors will surely look towards Alen Halilovic to bring that extra spark back and help them continue their surge towards safety. Alen is surely still lacking confidence following his serious knee injury but the faith his coach is investing in him should be more than enough to help the young Croat reach towards his true inner self and channel the best of his repertoire.
It’s up for a debate but – despite the active January transfer window and the arrivals of players such as Jairo Samperio, Gabriel Penalba or Alejandro Galvez – the return of vastly talented Alen Halilovic could turn out to be the biggest boost for La Liga strugglers Las Palmas in the second part of the season.
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