Tears and cheers as Iago Aspas returns to save Celta Vigo again | Sid Lowe

It’s not that Iago Aspas is Celta’s best player; it is that, as this weekend demonstrated once again, Iago Aspas is Celta

In the end, it all became too much and Iago Aspas broke down and wept, slumped into his seat sobbing. One by one, his team-mates came to him, putting an arm around his heaving shoulders, taking it in turns to hold him. All around, they sang: 22,315 of them, people just like him, chanting his name. He sat, eyes red, and half-watched the final minutes of a match he had won, lost in his thoughts. Through his tears, football was a better place, more meaningful. Balaídos certainly was, signs of life at last – and this was life. Here was a glimpse of feeling and of salvation, something for Celta de Vigo to hold on to. Him, basically. Hope had returned but it hurt.

Saturday was always going to be significant and so was Aspas, but few expected it to end quite like this. In Vigo, they were celebrating the reconquest, when the city rose against Napoleon’s troops in 1809 but it was another reconquest that occupied many of them, and if the old town filled with people in 19th-century costume, carrying swords, guns and axes, bagpipes and drums, the streets around Balaídos filled with light blue shirts, flags and flares, the team bus edging to the ground through the smoke, scarfs swirling. Celta were in the relegation zone, 18th, four points from safety, and were playing 17th-placed Villarreal: opportunity but also obligation.

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