In an entertaining Europa League match, Mexican starlet Diego Lainez came off the bench to help spark 2-goal comeback.
Eighteen-year-old Diego Lainez signed with Spanish club Real Betis in January, moving from boyhood club America in a reported 14 million-dollar deal. In doing so, Lainez became the youngest ever Mexican to move to Europe after debuting in Liga MX. (Real Sociedad and Team Mexico defender Hector Moreno was 19 when he left Pumas for Europe in 2007.)
The skilled and shifty Lainez represented the hopes of all fans of Mexican football who want to see members of El Tri playing in the best leagues. At Betis, he was joining up with Team Mexico captain Andres Guardado which made the transition that much smoother.
A month on from the big move, it is clear that Real Betis coach Quique Setien will take his time with the youngster, giving him appearances off the bench and two starts (one league match and one Copa del Rey match). So it was no surprise when Lainez got called off the bench to warm up, subbing in at the 27-minute mark.
And now, the night of Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, will forever be marked with a heart (and not because it was Valentine’s Day). Lainez announced his presence in a big European competition, scoring the game-tying goal in injury time against France’s Rennes. With the goal, he became the youngest Mexican to score in the Europa League.
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The game – the first leg of a Round of 32 series between Betis and Rennes – took place in Roazhan Park in Rennes and turned south for the visitors right away and the home team went up 2-0 before the match was 10 minutes old. Coach Setien told Diego to start stretching.
The game changed quickly after Diego checked in. Betis nearly scored the first time Lainez got involved in a play and in minute 32 Giovani Lo Celis drew 1 back for the Spanish club.
Just before halftime, Guardado was called for a very sketchy penalty (video assistant replay is not in use in Europe League) and Rennes took a 3-1 lead into the locker room.
In minute 62, Betis defender Sidnei narrowed the deficit to 1 with a header, but Betis could get no closer as the clock ticked away.
The game looked until, in the 90th minute, Betis earned a corner kick. Sergio Canales sent a cross into the middle of the box where it bounced off two Betis heads then to the back side where Lainez was positioned. Diego watched the ball bounce then struck a firm volley from a sharp angle that bounced through a defender and past the startled goalie.
Diego’s first goal with his new club was huge! The 3-3 tie gives the “verdiblancos” an advantage in the return leg, knowing a win or a low-scoring tie gets them into the Round of 16.
It is doubtful Lainez could have envisioned a greater debut goal for his new club. Perhaps it it will give coach Setien time to consider giving Diego more starts.
For now, Diego Lainez is proving that more Mexican youngsters should be moving to Europe to test themselves. And, no doubt, all Mexican football fans will be eagerly following his progress in the years to come.