The Athletic Club team were able to achieve an extremely important triumph against Valencia, who…
The Athletic Club team were able to achieve an extremely important triumph against
Valencia, who were beaten by 1-0 resulting from a great shot at goal struck by Gabilondo with his heel in minute 27 of the match. Not only did the encounter have the corroboration of an outstanding response that our fans give the team but also put an end to the losing streak in both home and away games. Three golden points which will allow, irrespective of the weekend’s overall match results, Athletic Club to face the home stretch with another predisposition to hold on to. A hard won triumph, especially towards the end of the match, as our rival applied the pressure in the second half and had two chances to equalize the contest. It took blood, sweat and tears to be victorious in the match, because anxiety can make you feel like you have lead feet and lead even in your throats, and the victory was achieved thanks to such virtues as; competitiveness, the fighting spirit and discipline all of which have been utilized so many times against rivals who have arrived at San Mamés as favourites. A slight respite no matter how much the visiting coach tried to put Athletic under the scrutiny of the media during his post-match press conference, as if, first of all, we aren’t tired of the fact that we do not get any freebies and what’s worse makes out as if we do and, second of all, as if it were a do or die affair for Valencia and that the referees are against them and as though Athletic were at the top by going against the norms of any other team in any other season.
Valencia took the initiative during the first few minutes and a header taken by Angulo in the 5th minute was their best goal-scoring opportunity at the start of the game, the time it took Athletic to overcome their initial nervousness and to position themselves well on the field, closing ranks to avoid the opponent’s combination especially in the centre. Athletic were in control of the situation as a result of a great physical effort. Both teams came onto the field with what seemed to be a 4-4-2 approach with some slight changes being made according to the pressure applied by the rivals with their first kick.
On behalf of our team Iraola was sent to cover the wing and Javi Martínez (who received his fifth yellow card) was positioned more towards the centre alongside the “debutant” Ustaritz. Valencia made several changes to their starting eleven line up with their next European match to be played on Tuesday in mind. A line up in which quite a few players were sent to cover field positions which could be considered unnatural for them, this however did not take their undeniable class both individually and as a team away from them, just in case anyone would like to demean our victory. Furthermore, during the course of the clash Villa, Joaquín and Miguel had an opportunity to contribute to the efforts made by their team against Athletic who did not allow their opponent to score against them during the crucial stages of the match.
Prior to scoring the goal so as not to experience the anxiety and hardship of previous home games, Gabilondo first looked dangerous in the 9th minute, however, his shot at goal was repelled with difficulty by Butelle and Gabilondo then went on to score with his heel in the 27th minute after having intercepted a good kick from the centre by Etxeberria which had hit the left post. The player from Elgoibar remembered what it was like to score a goal during last Sunday’s match and was encouraged by the spectators. He had the opportunity to score a goal in the 25th minute but the shot ended up being a double corner which preceded the goal scored by Gabilondo, another player who was at odds in the goal-scoring department and who has a friendly relationship with the goalposts.
Getting ahead on the scoreboard was a blessing and even more so because the team held firm on the field, what’s more Gabilondo forced Butelle to leave the goal area in the 31st minute, and the team went to the halftime break without letting Valencia take a shot at goal and create more danger than a dangerous counterattack which took place just before our goal was scored and, which seemed to be the result of the player being offside. During the first half Silva, who came into contact with Prieto’s body, fell to the ground and this was the basis of one of the two vigorous complaints made by Sánchez Flores in the Press Conference Room.
On a bad note, Casas was injured just before the break which meant a reshuffle in the team. Garmendia stepped in to take his place, which meant that Iraola was sent to the right wing and Expósito to the left. Valencia made some changes during the break.
Villa along with Silva were to be the strikers, Angulo was sent to cover the right wing, Jorge López the left wing, Hugo Viana was sent to midfield and Pallardó had to make a sacrifice. Los chés started to put the pressure on. Villa took a foul shot in the 49th minute and one minute later gave Aranzubia a serious work out and for an instant a siege at San Mamés was feared. The siege did not take place though and we were “content” to simply suffer.
Javi Martínez gave Butelle a work out in the 52nd minute and the coaches went back to the drawing board without delay. Mané wanted to cut off the supply in the midfield area by sending Murillo in to replace Etxeberria in the 55th minute and Joaquín was chosen one minute later to apply the pressure in attack and thereby replaced López. The latter kicked the ball to the centre in the 60th minute which was finished off by Albiol whose header went over the crossbar.
The new line up gave Athletic a breather, although possession of the ball was lost all too prematurely, and made things difficult for Valencia, so much so that Quique Sánchez sent Miguel in to replace Curro Torres in the 71st minute and was offered the entire right wing displacing Joaquín who was sent to cover the left, where the latter looked a little dangerous. The suffering as a result of the importance of the points at risk lasted right until the very end, but reached perhaps its climax in the 74th minute when a deep pass by Villa seemed to hang in the air for an eternity before striking the crossbar. At that moment the possibility of us winning was stronger than ever and neither the death ball which was finished off by Angulo in the 80th minute and then sent to corner nor Villa’s shot which caressed the goalpost in the 84th minute could change the course of the match. And our team kept on closing ranks, coming, going, stealing the ball and returning to their places, and during injury time the team even wasted a couple of counterattacks that under “normal” circumstances would have ended up being goals.
This would have been maybe too much to ask for, but it was about time the team won by doing the same thing that many other teams have done successfully at San Mamés during the season or what Valencia did last season. Furthermore, during the second half the second of the two vehement complaints made by Quique Sánchez in the press conference room came about when the goalkeeper, a defender and a forward (Silva once more) went for the ball practically at the same time.
Too much noise and nobody was happy with the refereeing, but this shouldn’t detract from the importance of this achievement: third triumph at home which has to help lay the foundations of our salvation from San Mamés where Athletic must play five of the nine matches left in the league. For a change let’s enjoy the triumph, something that unfortunately we are not used to doing of late.