Athletic Club has drawn at one goal each against Almeria and has yet to pull…
Athletic Club has drawn at one goal each against Almeria and has yet to pull off a home victory in San Mamés this season. When it comes to trying to find the causes of the draw we could mention three that we’ll try to arrange or intermingle in the following lines: little game, merits of the rival and/or decisions by the referee.
With regards to the downright and straightforward scoreboard, Etxeberria has scored for our team in the minute 31, ending the drought that accompanied him in San Mamés, involuntarily of course. We can at least end the fallacy, that until today has been repeated by countless media, which spoke of over three years without scoring at home and which in fact dogged him since 19 January 2005 when he scored the 2-0 against Lanzarote. What is important, more so than the sheets on a calendar, is that his contribution continues in view of the difficulties we face in scoring goals.
And continuing with calculations, Athletic had trouble when Felipe Melo drew in the minute 62 after connecting a header coming from a corner kick by Corona. And calculations couldn’t be right because it was already playing with one less player after the at least debatable expulsion of Del Horno in the last minutes before the break, which makes any analysis difficult no matter how much sometimes, though few, one wins with one less player, and on other occasions the advantage remains, and it is generally paid with a defeat.
To start with, Almeria came on to the field with the same virtues that have made it receive good criticism away from home. Armed with a 4-1-4-1, which derived without excessive problems to a 4-2-3-1, they’ve taken the weight of the match in spite of playing away, which made it difficult for Athletic to come into play. Despite it all, the lack of opportunities was palpable and the only two plays to be rescued from the first minutes would be a wide shot from a free-kick by Negredo and a shot on goal by Aitor Ocio close to the opponent’s penalty area in the minute 15, but he couldn’t connect with the right body part. In the second half, Melo was able to score the equalizer from practically the same position, also coming from a corner kick.
As the minutes passed, it was Athletic who took possession of the ball so as to bring on the pressure in its advancing line; although, in the minute 29, Negredo took advantage of a rebound from a teammate to stick his boot in and brush the goal. On the contrary, who did achieve it was Etxeberria in the minute 31, after finishing off into the centre of the goal a long shot from the wing by Del Horno which Aduriz headed into his path.
Once again with the advantage in San Mamés and again a one-all draw in the final tally, just as it happened against Zaragoza. Nonetheless, on this occasion, the rojiblancos have maintained the advantage on the marker, though not in the number of players, during more minutes. Almeria felt the blow and didn’t know how to react and everything seemed to indicate that we would finally see an encounter in which the rival was going to leave some room in San Mamés.
All this changed in the wink of an eye shortly before the break. In the previous home match we spoke of the quota of protagonism the referee wanted to have for himself and unfortunately we must once again fill some lines we’d rather have left blank. It was the minute 42 of play, with the ball near the midfield line and very close to the chalk line that limits the right line of Almeria’s attack when Del Horno, with a handful of players around, arrived late and lunged on Bruno. The referee, however, pulled out the red card in consonance with the level, high or low, that he’d already set starting with a rightful card to Iraola and that he’d been shelling in time with incongruity like the reiterated warnings to defenders that took hold of possible finishers throughout the match without indicating infraction whatsoever. In one of those skirmishes, Ocio, who was ready to shoot at goal, and Juanito, who defended him, were both booked with yellows.
And once the match was upside down, another story began with its consequent moves. For our equipment, before the break, Vélez left to the changing rooms and with Koikili’s entrance the format of a team that went on break rather tainted was re-drawn. For Almeria, on the contrary, in addition to the changes, they saw that the referee was serious, in a way of speaking, like Emery explained it in the press room more or less like this: ‘Juanito has known how to sacrifice himself for the team and offered himself to be one of the substitutes because he already had a yellow card ‘. In others words, they also feared the worse.
In spite of everything, it was Athletic who, also involuntarily of course, completed the unfortunate arbitration performance. It was anticipated that Almeria would come out on the attack, and more so after Corona and Natalio came in for by Bruno and the ‘sacrificed’ Juanito, but not that Athletic’s step backwards was merely spatial and not press or come out on the counterattack since the rojiblancos squandered the ball too soon, too easily and, sometimes, in excessively compromised positions. Juanma Ortiz was placed as lateral right; Natalio and Crusat beside Negredo and Corona between midfields and defenders creating many situations of superiority between lines that lacked the attachment that team pressure could offer. The ten rojiblancos were in the back almost by inertia. In that difficult train of mind, Almeria created many arrivals or approaches, but only a pair of opportunities like a shot by Mané in the minute 50 that Iraizoz saved twice and one option for Negredo, ruined by the deficient control of the forward in the minute 52. In search of freshness, David Lopez replaced Etxeberria in the minute 54 and the overwhelming domination of the visitors even appeared to dissipate. The mirage only lasted until Corona’s volley in the minute 51 and the great save by Iraizoz ended up in corner and was later comfortably headed in by Melo.
It even seemed that the worst was yet to come. That was the feeling in San Mamés, but Athletic took a step forward that it perhaps needed at the re-start. It didn’t create danger because it lacked clarity of ideas, but it maintained its goal clear of danger except for a line-drive shot by Natalio which Iraizoz saved in the last minutes of the match.
For Athletic, Exposito replaced Orbaiz in the minute 71, with Iraola changed to assist in the right wing and midfield and David Lopez on the double pivot. Emery tried his changes by placing two natural-born forwards by bringing on Kalu Uche for Crusat. Between the deafened fight in the midfield, long balls and midfielders pressuring Aduriz, some inexorable minutes passed, but at least Athletic put into practice the draw when it’s not possible to have the victory, though it could have been with a more accurate arbitration performance leaves a bitter taste, in addition to dimming any purely soccer related analysis of the match.
Instead of writing a report about a balanced match, or a bad game or even speaking of a boring one, whose type do exist in soccer, doubts assail us, a circumstance that is probably generalized. Those from Almeria are probably thinking on the lost opportunity with one more, our players on the possibility of having held or increased the advantage with eleven on the field and us on how much we’d like to stop mentioning the referees, while being able to proclaim that we have drawn or lost due to our own demerits, to say just how good the rival was and that it’s our own responsibility not having managed to achieve a draw. It would be wonderful. Let’s see if the next meeting gives us the opportunity and we’re able to save space to speak only of good or bad soccer. It would be a sign that some are simply yielding their quota of protagonism in benefit of the sport or that they are simply doing it well.
The points our team has are not enough to be shooting off rockets, but the referees haven’t really collaborated in the task. If it’s sometimes difficult in itself; would it be much to ask that they at least not make it more difficult?