Athletic Club haven’t known how to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them today…
Athletic Club haven’t known how to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them today to finally break away from relegation spots and were defeated 0-2 by Gimnástic de Tarragona. Portillo and Pinilla scored the goals in a match in which our players played with their hearts, but not their heads.
Though it wasn’t life or death, because luckily the calendar offers another thirteen opportunities for us to react, this match was decisive in order to take flight in the classification table and confront the remaining matches with more motivation. Nevertheless, leaving the rest of determining factors aside, there is nothing worse for our team than to carry the distinction of favourite before any match. Instead of taking flight, Athletic drowned in its own impotence, in spite of ending up playing almost like when there were no trains, with a 3-2-5 and the presence even of Amorebieta performing offensive tasks in the dying stages. The accumulation of players was not translated into clear goal options, if we don’t count the initial stages of both periods; facing a Nástic that limited itself to showing an ironclad defence and a tremendously decisive attack.
The dynamics of the match was reflected from the beginning: local attack and visitor defence, as if it were a fronton. That’s why a goal in the first stages would have been like rubbing a magic lamp. Sarriegi had his option in the minute 5, but it went wide coming from corner. Iraola ran into a defence in a strong firing in the 17th, and everything indicated that improving the resolution in strategic plays Athletic could get ahead at any time.
Nevertheless, with the same scheme used before Getafe, our team needed to be more concrete on passes from the wings and, in spite of the support from the spectators who have once again hung the ‘Sold out’ sign at San Mamés ticket offices, the universe of collective nervousness was gradually taking form simply by Rubén Castro’s off-track shot on goal in the minute 24 and, what about when Portillo culminated a relatively easy counterattack down the middle in the 36th. With the 0-1, all the red warning lights lit and that’s how they remained until the end. The reader might miss local opportunities, but we can only highlight a high header by Urzaiz in the minute 42.
The second half has been a trace of the first, at least at the beginning, as far as options and the rest, in as far as Athletic showed too much heart and little head before a team that crossed down the midfield with clarity two or three times and finally scored another goal. We have yet another aggravating factor: since the minute 54 they had one less player after Mingo was sent off for a second yellow card.
Almost immediately, Matellán replaced Rubén Castro and Nástic entrenched even more into making the attack, that was already thick enough, even more difficult and have competently known how to defend all the balls lifted over their area.
Before the send-off, Athletic had left some exciting finishing touches with three possibilities in a few minutes. In the 46, Casas barely ended high from outside the area; in the 49th, Sarriegi, again coming in from corner, avoided a defence but his shot bounced on Bizzarri and in the 52nd, Aduriz with a forced header, finished off Urzaiz’s cross, but high.
At the break, Mané had left Yeste, yesterday’s ‘target’ from the stands, in the substitute’s booth and with the entrance of Javi Martinez he tried to reinforce the midfield. After the initial thrust, in which team and fans met once again, things started losing gas. The rojiblancos, like the rain and the temperature drop this afternoon, arrived everywhere late. To the decisive balls, to the crosses to the area, to cover… and to make matters worse an elaborate play by the opponent was enough for Pinilla, who was completely alone, to head home the goal in the minute 71.
Athletic had an overwhelming amount of ball possessions, but it didn’t know what to do with them, like creating danger and clear superiority in spite of all the changes occurring. Etxeberria replaced Casas in the minute 57 and Gabilondo was placed on the left wing. In the minute 74, Llorente entered for Gabilondo, passing Expósito to the left wing and Iraola to the right. There was no more room for forwards on the field and, in addition, Amorebieta shifted to the offensive line with such frequency and self-esteem which the crowd recognised. Despite it all, the harvest has been little for so much sowing: a disallowed goal to Aduriz due to Amorebieta’s previous foul on Bizzarri, Aduriz himself fired flat but smooth right at the hands of Bizzarri in the minute 63; in the 81st, Llorente finished off a header wide and, immediately afterwards, Aduriz’s firing was on track, but the shot bounced off the body of a defence, most likely because of the large concentration of rivals in the area.
What about Gimnástic? Let us say, and there are the videos to corroborate it, that they have been capable of taking advantage of their incursions, mainly in the second half, and Irurzun even had his chance in the last stages, but his volley was returned back to the midfielder. A third goal would have been excessive. What is true is that the celebration of their 17 points and the faith they still maintain in avoiding relegation should serve us as reference at least to confront the final stretch of the championship.
In the end, some in the crowd were upset while others applauded; the typical double reaction that takes place when the final score trashes all earlier expectations; the mixture between rage, concern and the hope that things will be done (and will turn out) better in the remaining matches.
It’s time to join forces and clench our teeth, we have no alternative but to repeat what we said some weeks back. To combine efforts, even if only to fight the challenges heads or tails that soccer individually, and sports in general has in store for us. In the stands no one is going to fail and we are going to continue as we’ve done until now, supporting the team till the match concludes, tinting San Mamés red-and-white like today, but on the field it’s obvious a correction is urgent if we want to get back on the right track.
Bring back that San Mamés magic: Winners
Below you will find the thirty winning photographs of fans, all decked-out in red-and-white, who were chosen during the Athletic Club-Gimnástic match. Once their identity is confirmed, they may claim their prize -either an “Athletic Bihotzez” Prestige Pack or tickets-for-two to visit the Athletic Club Trophies and Exhibitions Hall- at Ibaigane during regular business hours, which are 9:00 to 14:00 and 16:00 to 18:00, Monday through Friday.
They were also participants of this first step, which others will surely follow, to help bring back the magic of San Mamés, on a day in which we must thank everyone in attendance for their support to the players and the acceptance shown toward the initiative by Athletic Club to encourage our team.