Athletic Club reached the mid-way point of the season with a goalless draw against Levante…
Athletic Club reached the mid-way point of the season with a goalless draw against Levante and continues its good away streak; however, with a bitter aftertaste because most goal occasions on the granotes pitch have been by our team. With 19 points, things remain just as difficult, despite increasing the difference with respect to the last two matches; keep up with the third, leave today’s rival in the same position and gain ground on Mallorca and Celta. There are just as many match days left to improve a not-so-showy first leg which ends with just four points over last season’s mid-way result.
The match has been all but eye-catching. Whether it was due to the opponent’s approach, the condition of the pitch, or the urgent necessity to get some points, both teams openly decided on long balls to their most advanced men in search of the prolongation. While this was the prevailing characteristic, both halves could be clearly differentiated, especially with regards to our team’s game. In the first half, although Athletic enjoyed two diaphanous goal occasions, the lines were quite separated and Levante practically dominated the so-called second balls, which gave them greater initiative when it came to approaching the rival area.
On the contrary, in the second period, the Rojiblancos’ positioning was much more optimal and besides creating numerous occasions, Athletic had more ball possession, played a ground game more often and eliminated most danger from Aranzubia’s area. As in previous matches, the team’s defensive work was rather efficient.
In the not-so-spectacular, though balanced contest, the first clear chance was for Aduriz in the minute 16 after receiving a deep pass from Javi Martinez, but the forward shot wide before an awaiting Molina. A minute later, Exposito’s point-blank penetration ended as shot at goal, but right into the goalkeeper’s hands.
Levante scored in the minute 30, but Courtois was offside; however, when he noticed the official hadn’t signalled, his latter chat with the referee put too much suspense into the play. Ettien’s opportunity in the minute 38 was close, but the volley hit Casas and as it gained height Aranzubia was able to deflect it for a corner.
Unfortunately, Sarriegi had the clearest option, when he met with a pass by Yeste from a free-kick but, with Molina on the tightrope, the header barely missed wide.
As we summarized earlier, Athletic came out better planted for the second half. The first chance was for Javi Martinez who, in the minute 48, shot an excellent volley which Molina was able to tip off to corner. When Amorebieta came in, he was the object of a penalty but the referee, whose view was perhaps blocked, didn’t appear to see it. Aduriz was unable to finish off a good counter attack in the minute 55 after running into Molina’s hand and Yeste tried it from the free-kick in the minute 58, but Molina was able to control the ball with relative ease.
That’s when local manager Abel Resino chose to substitute Tommasi and bring in N’Diaye to try to regain control of the midfield and later, minute 68, Robert in for Harte, who was clearly outshined by Javi Martinez. Courtois took the wing position and the recently incorporated player the left midfield. By means of the changes, Levante was able to create more danger out of their strategic plays. In fact, every ball the Frenchman shot was a close cross right into the goal area of keeper Aranzubia, who rejected his most difficult shot in the 81st minute.
On the part of the Rojiblancos a possible penalty on Javi Martinez was the only concrete danger. Mané introduced three changes on the most offensive side of the team trying to find that victory until the end; Llorente for Urzaiz and Garmendia for Aduriz in the 76th minute and Gabilondo in for Yeste in the 83rd.
In the end, one more point to help us flee from the fire. At least none of the players threatened with yellows will miss the next match in Anoeta, and before the start of the second leg of the season, the team will hold a training camp in Valencia.