The match between Athletic Club and Zaragoza ended scoreless. After this result our team now…
The match between Athletic Club and Zaragoza ended scoreless. After this result our team now has 15 points, the total amount we had at the end of the first leg last season, although there are still 3 matchdays left to the midway point. It’s a poor consolation, but there’s yet room for improvement; so much quantitative as qualitative, after obtaining seven of the last nine at play. In spite of starting off with the laudable objective of achieving a third-straight win, reality tells you that if winning a match is almost impossible, a draw is not a bad result; more so when facing a quality rival such as Real Zaragoza.
Those who had any doubt that Zaragoza was going to be a difficult rival saw things change just 3 minutes into the game when, in a fast play and the defence badly positioned, Aimar slammed the ball into Aranzubia; who without a doubt received an extra dose of confidence to last the rest of the match.
Just as was expected and announced, the hardest fight took place in the midfield. The intention of our players was to press as far back as possible so that when they stole the ball it would implicate danger. That’s what happened in the 6th minute, but Yeste shot wide. Zaragoza was not at all comfortable and although Víctor Fernandez immediately gave the order for his pivot men Celades and Zapater to change, they were unable to untie the knot. Athletic stole many balls, but also lost them too easily and/or quickly. It was a pretty match to watch; more than the lack of opportunities, it was the untiring effort by both teams; for their disposition and the beauty of the tactical battle that was being carried out.
Before describing what’s been a lifeless match in the areas and lots of sideways action in the midfield, we should highlight that it is the second consecutive match without conceding goals, that the defensive work has been remarkable, as has been the pressure placed on the rival; considering also that this was the second significant effort in three days and that the crowd was infected by the effort displayed on the field, in return, they expressed their appreciation for the last two victories. Perhaps in the possibility, we should point out that when the team was on the counterattack it lacked freshness and perhaps that’s why they weren’t able to achieve the victory.
We had to wait till the 33rd minute for the next goal occasion, when Yeste was able to control a pass from Iraola, but lost the ball to a defender in his attempt to dribble it in. Two minutes later, Urzaiz was unable to culminate another counterstroke after a good steal and, in the 42nd minute, Ewerthon created a second chance for his team after controlling a good inside ball and shooting at target on the half-turn. The shot was warded off by Aranzubia with the tip of his fingers and as occurred on Saturday in A Coruña, the referee and one of the line judges ignored the evidence. Despite it all, the first half wasn’t over, since as a better palpable example than the squandering of honesty exhibited and the dispute of each ball, Javi Martinez gathered one of those that seemed lost. The leather was centred flat by Yeste and Gabilondo barely reached it, while a defender turn the danger away from under the wood. At that time, Javi Martinez was playing the right wing, although against Zaragoza he was also pivot man and midfielder, where he’s more comfortable.
In the second half, Etxeberria came in for Gabilondo from the start, while Yeste changed to the left and Javi Martinez was positioned behind Urzaiz in the midfield. There haven’t been any changes for Zaragoza, neither in its alignment nor in the way to undertake the second half, since as had occurred in the first half, in the third minute, where they enjoyed a very clear opportunity. It was Ewerthon who won positioning after receiving an inside pass and shooting point-blank, causing a third intervention by Aranzubia, who managed to deflect the ball. From then on, all other attempts were useless while Athletic Club tried to do so in many different ways. For example, Casas shot on goal from outside the area in the minute 52, but Cesar responded well. Soon after, Mané used his second substitution, introducing Garmendia for Murillo with a new position as midfielder for the just incorporated player and changing Javi Martinez, in this case to the pivot position next to Iraola. Just when he came in, a defensive clearing struck Garmendia on the head, the ball was not a target shot as it happened against Recreativo, but it did land on Etxeberria’s feet who shot as the ball came to him, quite strong but wide.
Fernandez tried to reactivate their advantage in the minute 62 when he substituted Sergio Garcia for Ewerthon and four minutes later the night’s most controversial play arrived, when Urzaiz overtook Piqué on a long ball and the defender took hold of his jersey. The referee called the foul on the forward. In the minute 70, Garmendia shot flat but wide and Yeste closed the cycle of options by means of a right-foot shot after a good technical gesture, but Caesar caught the ball without difficulty. Athletic already had Aduriz on the field, substituting Urzaiz, but until the end the team couldn’t overtake an opponent that seemed settled with the one point and that made its last changes with its mind more on the clock that in sentencing the match.
While we await the results of this evening’s matches, at least the team has left good sensations. The Liga takes a breather now and whether the break will be good or bad will have its reply in January. For now however, the team will not train from noon of the 21st until the afternoon of the 26th; nor will they train on 31 December and 1st of January. The several-day stay in Majorca has yet to be confirmed.