Athletic Club has lost 1-3 against FC Barcelona. Yeste has scored the 1-0 and Ustaritz…
Athletic Club has lost 1-3 against FC Barcelona. Yeste has scored the 1-0 and Ustaritz jointly with Puyol, Gudjohnsen and Saviola for the visitors’.
The week has been difficult and intense. In addition to the resignation by President Fernando Lamikiz, his substitution by Vice-president Ana Urkijo and the later assumption of institutional responsibilities along with another eleven board members we also have the call for elections at the end of the 2006-2007 season…
If the abovementioned statement was not enough, what was least expected was an outbreak by the referee. To know, certainly spectators knew that it was going to be very difficult to overcome almighty Barcelona in normal circumstances, but by no means did anyone suspect that the struggle would be during some moments, some of them decisive, ten against twelve.
If it serves as a consolation without points, the team have been able to demonstrate in San Mamés that they have the capability to give more of itself, and that to the struggle and devotion it can also add presence on the playing field and good game.
The beginning was ideal: a devoted crowd that came to the ground with no other intention than to cheer our team on. In the symbiosis that we so much miss, everyone was attentive to the game and when the squeeze was on, Athletic showed good pressure when Barcelona had the ball; fast attacks and steady pace. In addition, also a rare species, the team scored early in the minute 11 when Yeste hooked a beautiful volley from a cross by Llorente, who debuted as a starter. Barça had difficulty making clear approaches and a penetration by Deco in the 13th minute was the only response. Garmendia tried stirring himself in the area in the minute 15 and the referee showed up but did not appreciate a hand by Puyol in his area, a detail which was also not caught by the television producers.
Barça was trying, but there were no holes. They found one in the minute 20, thanks to a counterattack widened by the referee. Casas and Gudjhonsen were fighting for the ball, the forward in the classic fight to gain possession fell and Fernandez Borbalán was called to rows in a ball that still no one controlled and that would possibly have been unattainable, besides the fact that it was moving toward the touchline and that Sarriegi was further back; a trifle that was not even consulted with the sideline referee. Everyone was surprised, some disagreeably and others pleasantly, but the match was nipped in the bud. Ronaldinho himself expressed so to Iraola.
Barça, donning UNICEF on their jersey, an exemplary agreement, a gesture accompanied by contribution for needy children does not appear to need consideration in the way of points or advantages, however much the referee -who wore the blaugrana second kit colours- made decisions that made one think he was donning the first kit colours directly. Barça had quality in abundance, but it is good for soccer that it can show it on an equal footing.
If anyone needed a hand, better Athletic who until that moment walked in search of a game in which to recognize itself; just as they have spent this whole past week going from committee to committee and it appears something similar is in demand for this coming week in view of the card shown to Casas.
Expósito almost immediately came in for Llorente in search of greater strength in the midfield and as to not alter the defence. Rikjaard didn’t lose any time and introduced Giuly for Edmilson. Despite it all, Ronaldinho from a free-kick in the 33rd minute and Xavi from a line shot from outside the area in the 37th created danger. Everything seemed to foretell a hopeful 1-0 at the break with tons of suffering when play resumed. Unfortunately only the second half had expired, since in the injury time Ustaritz and Puyol, jointly, scored after what seemed an innocent centre.
More difficult still, if it already isn’t by itself to oppose Barça eleven players against eleven, with two less on the field it’s almost impossible. Besides, to start the second half well, Márquez sent a lashing shot to the post in the minute 46 while the referee was up to his tricks, with no criterion when it came to cards and trying to compensate with absurd decisions what no longer had any possible solution. Athletic Club stayed in the game, but it was difficult to maintain the intensity and the concentration in the results before rival’s downpour of qualities. In one of these, Xavi served very well to Gudjohnsen who has scored the 1-2. The damage was already done. Almost immediately Iniesta came in for Deco, Urzaiz for Etxeberria, Saviola for Gudjohnsen and Gabilondo replaced Garmendia. Athletic Club continued looking up and that is paid for dearly against a rival that executes the counterattack brilliantly. As is almost a custom, Saviola scored against our team, finishing off an excellent collective play.
With a devoted crowd in the stands and very involved in the game, Athletic didn’t lower their guard at any time, in spite of having almost everything against since the minute 20 and in spite of the physical wear out that the match entailed.
Our players, while they’ve been able or they’ve been allowed to do so, have shown they are on the right track. They haven’t been able to outplay a reinforced rival, but they have achieved that vital symbiosis with the crowd and that says a lot in the current context.