Athletic Club is a step closer to achieving its objective, which unfortunately it’s had to…
Athletic Club is a step closer to achieving its objective, which unfortunately it’s had to fight for again this season -to cling to First Division-, after defeating Mallorca by 1-0; thanks to the penalty drawn by Aduriz which Urzaiz converted into goal in the minute 63 of play. The match was faced as a final and it was finally won, however there are still two matches remaining. Just as was expected, the match was not too glitzy, tensions were high before the kickoff and evidently during the encounter itself, goal occasions were few but the team continuously received the necessary encouragement from the stands. It’s possible to say that even the weather prepared for the occasion.
Leaving aside all that was said, written and rumoured during the week, the rojiblancos had the firm intention of concentrating exclusively on their assignment. On the other hand, the opponents demonstrated that they hadn’t come here to wander, not in the least. As a sample of it, Víctor shot a header in the first minutes of play which came close but missed wide. After that jolt and other similar ones from the counterattack, Athletic was able to take control of the match. The 4-2-3-1 worked to recover a number of balls in the midfield, but the last passes failed and with it scoring opportunities, despite the fact that the team penetrated the right well on its attack. To illustrate this, what better way than to locate Moyá’s first serious intervention in the minute 37 when he saved a corner shot by Yeste. Shortly after, Gabilondo sent the ball into the net, but the linesman correctly indicated offside by Etxeberria, the author of the cross, though by just centimetres.
During the break, the rojiblancos were able to confirm that the results at other fields were helpful, at least in some, and only needed to complete their own assignment. Despite this, they came back into the game with a similar script than that of the first period: for starters, an occasion by Víctor in the minute 52, clearer than the one in the first half, who finished off a through ball assisted by Arango, however, Aranzubia was able to save with his feet.
Soon after, Urzaiz replaced Gabilondo. Yeste was placed in the left wing and Aduriz behind Urzaiz. The recently incorporated player requested a penalty in the minute 55, but it was non-existent. The player from Tudela finished off a cross from Yeste in the 61, but high, and in the 62 Ballesteros fouled him in the centre line. The later free kick by Yeste caused Nunes to bring down Aduriz in the penalty area; a penalty which Urzaiz converted into a vital goal for the aspirations of the team.
With less than half an hour left in the match, Athletic took a backward step, pushed by the scoreboard and the stride of a Mallorca that ended up with Ballesteros playing as second centre forward.
Manzano brought in Jankovic and Maxi to replace Varela and Víctor; while Mané introduced Javi González to replace Yeste without changing the tactical disposition at all. The minutes passed and, in addition to Tiko’s return to official competition after his lengthy injury, the clearest goal opportunity was for Javi González in injury time. It would have been too much of an advantage for a team that had completed its assignment, at least today’s.
There are still two equally difficult matchdays remaining, but the numbers are clearer: a victory would certify continuance in top flight. A draw in the next match day if Celta and Real don’t win and even a defeat if Real doesn’t win and Celta loses, considering also that Betis is still in the run with the same 37 points.
Therefore, it’s imperative to round out the course in Villarreal; an encounter in which the team will surely not be alone. We’re closer, and the sooner we manage to get to the finish… so much the better.