Athletic Club wasn’t able to continue its winning streak after losing to Villarreal, 0-1; with…
Athletic Club wasn’t able to continue its winning streak after losing to Villarreal, 0-1; with a goal by Forlán, in a not-so-spectacular match, with defensive superiority and in which it deserved to get at least a point. As already happened against Real Zaragoza, we saw that the team that was able to score had a long road ahead to take the three points. That is how it’s been until the last minute of the match when Athletic Club enjoyed an excellent opportunity to equalise; however, Viera was able to ward off Yeste’s penalty shot. Likewise, and with the scoreboard at nil, the referee forgave Josico a second yellow, an action that could have changed the outcome of the match.
Both teams began the match in opposite directions; our team, uphill and Villarreal downhill. Athletic didn’t let this be an issue and totally guessed their game, since considering the quality they amass; the men from Castile haven’t really shown much rhapsody, with good pressure and few defensive misalignments. With these precedents the match that was witnessed was highly tactical, with many aerial challenges, a great number of lost balls and little continuity, which is why it was very difficult for either team to clearly dominate the game. In Athletic Club’s case, the players and approach have been those practised in Saturday’s ‘behind-closed-door’ training session and which the media presented today: 1-4-4-2; with Etxeberria and Urzaiz as forwards and Amorebieta, substituting Prieto; while Javi Martinez played the right wing. In view of things, and given the traffic and accumulation of players in the midfield and the wings, the first half has a diaphanous summary: long balls to save on actions to which Villarreal tried to respond by covering Urzaiz and with counterattacks and falls by Forlán, the best in their ranks, in search of the ball; however, the level displayed by the rojiblancos defence has been eminent.
Given the panorama, trying to find opportunities in the first half would have been a miracle. Gabilondo nearly reached a defective pass by Villarreal in the minute 19, in the 20th, a shot by Marcos from outside the area ended up in corner and in the 23rd a free-kick by Gabilondo barely went wide. The clearest was a shot by Iraola in the injury time of the first half, but his placement shot was diverted from under the woods by a defender. In these last minutes, Josico was booked with a yellow card, a detail that would later have its importance in view of what happened in the second half.
The second half has been somewhat livelier. As soon as Matías Fernandez came on the field he shot a flat drive though wide; even though the initiative has this time been red-white. At the start, our team went into a 1-4-2-3-1 with Etxeberria on the right wing and Javi Martinez as attacking midfielder. Athletic was putting on the pressure, and in a play in the midfield, Josico tackled Iraola but the referee let play continue, and he forgave the second yellow; perhaps taking glory in the fact that he’s not one to send off players. A card that, had the player been booked, would have been his second and would have influenced the rest of the match. What is sad is that assuming that the error is inherent on any participant in the game, there remains the doubt of whether or not it is voluntary. As there is no intentional mediator, the existential doubt remains.
Who was not at all shaken was Pellegrini. The same had already happened to our team this season against Racing; on that occasion, Coach Portugal replaced Antonio Tomás almost immediately. A minute later, the Villarreal coach substituted Somoza for Josico, as he did with Bruno who came in for Marcos. Seconds earlier, Mané had introduced Yeste and Aduriz in Gabilondo and Etxeberria’s position, thereby returning to the 4-4-2 with Aduriz as the forward-midfielder and returning Martinez to the right wing.
Urzaiz had a good chance in the minute 66 and although the match’s unique drive was basically red-and-white, a play in the 70th minute a play, in which Aduriz’ ball took the worse option, he caught the Athletic defender off guard and Forlán was able to overtake Aranzubia.
The team tried to overcome the blow; Aduriz tried it from outside the area in the 73rd minute and Urzaiz with a header ten minutes later, but Villarreal managed the situation well and, due to the local’s nervousness, even enjoyed another clear occasion in the minute 92, but Aranzubia was there to stop Forlán’s shot. Despite everything, week after week, Athletic is showing the virtue of fighting until the end, and in the 93rd minute a header by Sarriegi was deflected to corner by Viera. When the corner kick was taken, already past the three minute injury time marked by the referee -even though the second half had given way for a couple more-, Amorebieta’s header was cut off with Josemi’s hand. The penalty was called and there was another chance to bring justice to the scoreboard, but as we said in the beginning, Viera repelled Yeste’s shot.
With this adverse result, things remain as they were last week, or practically the same; which is why the escape route is not going to be easy and Athletic’s current destiny for one more week is to continue fighting to achieve another winning streak.