Athletic Club beat Barcelona’s Espanyol by 2-1 in a match marked by our team’s faith…
Athletic Club beat Barcelona’s Espanyol by 2-1 in a match marked by our team’s faith and by the overall suffering as a result of Jonatás who had put his team ahead in the 3rd minute of the game with a shot at goal which he took from the middle of the field. In the second half, Urzaiz headed the ball into the back of the net on two different occasions which turned the match around and ensured that the three golden points stayed at home, leaving the relegation spots behind by three points and, with eight matchdays still left in the League a hard fight is expected from several teams. Reiterating that the key will be to turn San Mamés into a bunker, with regards to the exhibition from the stands, once more, and just like our former coach Ernesto Valverde said in the press conference room, ‘when you’re on the bench in front of the spectators you can really tell how much drive the public has at San Mamés ‘, has united the team who have won two out of two matches.
Prior to the kick off former coaches and players got together, however, once the match had started things soon took a turn for the worse. In the 3rd minute, Jonatás could see that Aranzubia was not in position and fired away from the midfield area. The team and those in the stands felt the blow, although fortunately the goalkeeper quickly got back into the swing of things and made his contribution towards keeping the points at home. Seeing that in the 9th minute he repelled a line shot at goal the result of a foul kicked by Pandiani and then in the 20th minute repelled a shot at goal taken at point-blank range. It took Athletic quite a lot to get into the match, they had the ball a lot, but the initial 4-4-2 approach was perhaps conceived to make the rival team take the risks but Espanyol were not up for the task. With the exception of an impressive volley by Arduriz taken with the left from outside the goal area which virtually split open the crossbar, the team did not look dangerous until the end of the first half.
Aduriz was at it again and took a shot at goal in the 34th minute but his header went high and in the 42nd minute Garmendia finished off with a volley which just missed and then kicked the ball straight into Kameni’s hands in the 45th minute. On behalf of the Blue-Whites, a Pandiani header missed its mark in the 44th minute. Then the culmination of the first half in which the visiting team had very few goal scoring opportunities however, the few opportunities they did have were tremendously dangerous.
The second half was another story. It was all or nothing, with all the risk which this entails and led to such moves being made that in any other match would have changed the outlook of the encounter. To start with Urzaiz replaced Garmendia during the break and Athletic took on a 4-3-3 approach which kept Espanyol in their territory. The Red-Whites kept on invading rival ground, noticeably more than they did in the first half. Despite the pressure Coro managed to break out on his own from the midfield area in the 58th minute, but Amorebieta’s quick reaction stopped him from having a one to one with Aranzubia. No letting up and Aduriz hammered the ball into Kameni’s body in the 59th minute and two minutes later a foul taken from the wing by Iraola was intercepted by Urzaiz whose header resulted in the equalizing goal being scored.
Valverde sent David García in to replace Torrejón resulting in Lacruz being sent to cover the right wing and Velasco to cover the left and almost immediately Yeste was sent in to replace Amorebieta, which meant that Expósito was sent to the left wing, Iraola to the right wing and the newcomer to the centre. Without hardly any time to re-position the team Espanyol made a move and Coro ended up having a one to one with Aranzubia. Only 65 minutes into the game. In the 70th minute Iturriaga stepped in for Gabilondo and in the 71st minute Luis García stepped in for Pandiani. With all these changes being made Athletic found it difficult to attack as they had done beforehand, on the other hand, their strategic moves were revitalized by the inclusion of Yeste.
A foul was committed against Etxeberria in the 78th minute, and Yeste took the foul shot which he kicked to the centre of the goal area and Urzaiz, who had beaten a defender to the ball, headed the ball into the back of the net which enabled the team to take the lead by 2-1, the player did such a good job in beating the defender that it seemed as though he was offside, but just as it has been mentioned on so many occasions, a possible mistake by the referee may compensate for a previously uncalled penalty like the one committed against Urzaiz who in turn was given a yellow card for complaining, something which the forward doesn’t usually do.
Behind on the scoreboard De la Peña was sent in to replace Rufete and Coro was sent to cover the right wing which meant that Espanyol were becoming dangerous strategically speaking. Already in injury time and almost straight after Yeste’s volley which went astray, a foul kicked by De la Peña was intercepted in the goal area and after the rebound a great header by Jarque was headed straight for goal, however, Aranzubia flew and saved the day leading to the goal scored in the 3rd minute being remembered as a mere anecdote. Athletic were able to fight back at San Mamés, to turn the match around and stay alive, very much so, thanks to the outstanding support of the fans, nevertheless we now have to take action at the home ground of the team on everyone’s lips.