UDG Tenerife are mounting an unlikely charge up the Primera Division table, thanks to a striker who is at the top of her game, writes Martin Whiteley.
The all-conquering Barcelona team might already be out of sight in the race to become Spanish champions, but the scramble for the remaining Champions League places continues to intensify.
One of the teams in the midst of this battle is UDG Tenerife. On the back of the recent form of striker Cristina Martin-Prieto, they have the chance to end as Barca’s ‘closest’ competitors and eclipse their previous highest league finish in the process.
At the weekend, in a home tie against relegation-threatened Villarreal, it was Martin-Prieto who settled the nerves as UDG Tenerife moved onto 43 points.
UDG goalkeeper Noelia Ramos had let a long ball from Lara Mata bounce through her legs to halve the deficit for the visitors. Moments later though, it was Martin-Prieto who popped up to secure a 3-1 success for the hosts with her 10th goal of the season.
There was more good news for the island side as second-placed Real Sociedad lost 1-0 at Levante. That reversal for the Basque Country club saw their advantage over UDG cut to just one point, having played a game more.
UDG have flown up the table in recent weeks. Having started the final month of 2021 down in eighth place, nine victories have seen them move up five spots. The club’s current purple patch has come on the back of the contributions from their number nine.
Born in Seville in March 1993, Martin-Prieto made her debut for her hometown club as a 15-year-old.
After five seasons, the forward moved to fellow Andalusia side Sporting Huelva where silverware came her way in 2015. Martin-Prieto scored both the goals for Sporting in their 2-1 win against Valencia in the Copa de la Reina final in a player-of-the-match performance.
In her four seasons with Sporting, Martin-Prieto racked up 67 goals which saw her secure a move to UDG.
From the south of mainland Spain, it is still over two hours by plane to reach Tenerife. However, club President Sergio Batista was a keen admirer of the striker, and it took little convincing to see her head to the island on an initial one-year deal.
UDG Tenerife’s style of play, with the ball taking longer to reach the attackers, may have been a big difference from Martin-Prieto’s previous club, but she still scored eight times in her maiden campaign for UDG, as they finished in their highest ever league position of fourth.
Unsurprisingly, the striker had no hesitation in signing on for another season.
Having put pen to paper for a third go-around, the forward was then offered her first two-year deal just as the world was shutting down in March 2020.
With six goals to her name when season 2019-20 was halted, Martin-Prieto was already well on her way to repaying the faith the club had shown in her.
The following campaign saw the striker hit double figures for the first time in the colours of the island side.
Despite UDG not being able to maintain their early season form — which saw them top of the table in December — UDG still finished a respectable sixth and Martin-Prieto ended the season with 12 goals to her name.
Now a vital cog in the way UDG play, the attacker, who has another decision to make on her future at the conclusion of this season, is performing even better this term.
Since the beginning of December, the striker has found the back of the net eight times in her last ten appearances.
Being able to grind out the wins at the business end of the season is key for any team looking for success. In the shape of Martin-Prieto, UDG have the player to score the goals for them to do just that.
Follow Martin on Twitter @673martin