Athletic Club has achieved its first victory of 2007 and has done so in a…
Athletic Club has achieved its first victory of 2007 and has done so in a powerful manner in Palma de Mallorca after defeating the local team by 1-3, with goals by Urzaiz (2) and Etxeberria. In the case of the last point, besides having found the goal once again, it also made for Athletic Club’s 4,100th Liga goal.
With the present one, it’s now four match days that our team have not lost in the Liga and thanks to this lucky streak the team have once again regained that dose of confidence and relaxation; despite the fact that the rest of results leave things practically the same as last week.
As had already happened in the previous away game, the foundations of the victory were laid, in good part, on the good defensive work and the strategy. The fact of being ahead on the scoreboard has strengthened our team and in second half Mallorca was reduced to its minimum offensive expression.
Before the break, Athletic Club tried to take command from the beginning. Yeste, in the minute 2, made a great shot from a foul which was perfectly warded off by Prats. A minute later, an inside play by Javi Martinez finished with a shot on goal, without him noticing that Urzaiz was entering the centre. Mallorca’s response was not made to wait and came as a strong shot-on-goal by Varela from outside the area in the minute 7 of play, the bounce surprised Aranzubia who tipped the ball with his left hand just enough to shift the ball to the post. Víctor’s header in the minute 16 ended wide, as in the 17th when Jankovic’s free-kick barely went wide.
After the storm, came the calm; and as happened in A Coruña from the strategy, concretely a well placed corner kick by Yeste, came the 0-1 in the minute 31 after an excellent placement by the lefty as well as that brilliant header by the forward who yesterday, coincidently, played his 400th match wearing our jersey.
Mallorca, who hadn’t won at Ono Estadi (home) in the Liga since 24 September, accused the blow. Iraola had the second in the minute 40, but Prats was there to stop his flat shot. Despite it all, Mallorca was strengthening and in the final run of the first half has enjoyed individual chances to equalise. First in the minute 41 after cross-header by Jankovic and then the second and clearest was Pereyra’s excellent header which Expósito removed from under the crossbar.
Luckily, Athletic repeated the second half it had performed in its previous away match and have erased the opponent from the map. To start with, minute 46, Yeste stole a ball which he passed to Urzaiz, however his shot went high. Nevertheless, the connection between both players worked once again in the minute 53. A foul shot from the opponent’s side midfield was headed in by Urzaiz, anticipating itself to Prats in spite of being the object of a penalty. Three minutes later, Urzaiz from a free-kick nearly scored the third.
It was in vain. The clearest and most dazzling opportunity was for the rojiblancos (white in this match) after a good collective combination, an inside ball by Yeste which Iraola controlled in the area and returned to the midfielder for that pleasing goal, however, the line judge interpreted what a prior offside which was non-existent. It would have been goal number 4,100, but it just couldn’t be.
There was no news from the Mallorca team and its coach Gregorio Manzano place all he had on the field by bringing in Tristán and Maxi for Jonás and Víctor in the 58th minute; thereby creating a four-man offensive line: Jankovic, now on the right, Maxi and Tristán in the midfield and Arango on the left.
With the match on the downhill, Urzaiz was replaced by Aduriz in the 71st minute and today’s starter Garmendia by Etxeberria in the 78th. Nevertheless, in spite of the visitor’s superiority the match recovered its emotion when a centre by Ibagaza was jointly combed by Expósito and Arango toward Aranzubia’s net. The uncertainty didn’t last long since a minute later Etxeberria took advantage of a bad pass, raising the ball over Prats to score the definitive 1-3 and, at the same time, ending his goal drought.
It’s clear that in spite of the good performance of Palma de Mallorca, a better classification would help the team to better respond in situations when they dominate on the scoreboard, especially when it comes to ball possession but, in general, the possibilities the team has been showing appear to indicate a greater effectiveness and that is good data considering the long road yet to travel. On Sunday, against Villarreal, we have a good opportunity to get into those middle positions on the table; meanwhile, however, we would do well in not forgetting where we are and where we’ve come from.