Athletic Club and FC Barcelona have drawn 1-1 in San Mamés. Bojan and Llorente have…
Athletic Club and FC Barcelona have drawn 1-1 in San Mamés. Bojan and Llorente have been the authors of the goals in a Liga classic filled with ambiance, excitement and alternatives. In the course of the match Athletic has known how to react and has once again demonstrated that, in the same proportion, it has difficulty winning and being defeated at its own ground; that is, despite the two Liga home wins to date, it’s no cushy job visiting La Catedral.
What’s more, the team has recovered the chemistry with its fans after the two deceptions in Pamplona and Santander, so much so that the draw has been celebrated as if it were a win, mostly due to how the match developed and the ability our team has shown on the pitch.
Things haven’t changed much at the bottom of the table -now just a point away from relegation spots-, on a day full of surprises that do nothing but ratify the reigning parity. Before thinking about the Liga, on Thursday we face the Copa in a match in which we have to aggressively look for goals and where the team-spectators relationship can and must play a very important role.
Athletic Club, though it was no surprise, came out with very tight lines, making Barcelona’s attacking game somewhat more difficult. In any case, our team stole balls, but it did so far from the rival’s goal and had problems in the transitions, in fact it seemed to lack the faith necessary to reach ahead in order to do damage to the opponent.
Despite all this, Orbaiz had the first chance with a long shot which Valdés deflected to corner in the minute 2. In spite of everything, and having less ball possessions, the only danger was created by the rojiblancos and as a sample of this we have a Barcelona that didn’t shoot on goal until the minute 17, by means of a shot by Messi that Aranzubia saved. Nevertheless, the blaugrana is a team with enough quantity and quality in its rows to give away, even though we may have to read a note of humour, as already happened after Sevilla’s visit, saying more or less that they are dwindling or in crisis.
Between Xavi, Iniesta and Deco, they took turns in playing the ball with criteria depending on the pressure of the hosts, whereas on top Messi and Bojan changed positions, with the Argentinean taking up the midfield and the young man from Lleida the wing; a circumstance that would have its importance in the first goal of the match.
As the minutes passed, Barça possessed the ball even more, more or less until the first half hour of play. Then Athletic came back to charge, with a smooth shot by Javi Martinez in the 31st minute and a clear chance by Aduriz in the minute 33, but after a cross by David Lopez and later struggle with Puyol, the ball was dead at Aduriz’ feet, but he shot high over the crossbar. An adversity that turned into tragedy and ominous breeding ground in the minute that followed.
Soccer has once again slapped Athletic in the face, this time for no reason; when Aranzubia came out to clear Messi’s long pass, and even after being fouled by the forward who was not booked, Deco laid the ball up to Bojan who scored the 0-1 with distinction. As occurred against Real Madrid, the impression that scoring was going to be difficult began to settle in just before the break.
In the second half, Garmendia and Aitor Ramos came in to replace Susaeta and Aduriz. Tactically, David Lopez changed to the right wing, Yeste to the left and the recently incorporated pair as forwards. The team pressed on from the back, goal kick included, with all the risks this measure involved. Barça didn’t have it easy getting the ball rolling, but once they got past the first line of pressure it was easier for our defence to face open spaces.
While Athletic Club was getting used to its new situation Barcelona tried to resolve the match on the fast lane and had two dangerous opportunities: Henry in the 46th minute and Deco in the 47th, but their shots were off target.
Another shot gone wide, on this occasion from Garmendia in the 48th, was the bugle call for Athletic to intimidate its rival. The match increased its pace and Athletic had the ball more and recovered it faster, like Javi Martinez in the minute 55, but Víctor Valdés caught the ball, popcorn included. The audience understood that that was the approach and appreciated the devotion with generalized cheers and little criticism.
Meanwhile, Rijkaard intended, and was momentarily able, to reinforce the midfield, with Edmilson coming in for Xavi. Nonetheless, the blaugranas recovered, that is, it was time to suffer and run after balls that were mostly moved with criteria. What’s more, it seemed that the team was going to suffer even more with the departure of an injured Javi Martinez, who was replaced by Llorente in the minute 68. Two minutes later, Puyol enjoyed perhaps the clearest occasion, but his shot from up close was turned away to corner by a defender in the minute 70.
With the match on the uphill and the rival waiting to finish off on the basis of their quality, Athletic Club once again regained its energy for the last drive. And how! With the audience giving their all, the ball was stolen in hot areas of the opposing field and in one of them Garmendia, who was playing as pivot after Llorente came in, infiltrated the right, crossed to Llorente, who jointly with Thuram, brought back the excitement to the stands and to the team, and has done so by way of a goal, demonstrating the advantages of coming in to finish off at the near post.
Madness untied in the stands, because of the job well-done, because it’s pleasant to see reaction capacity before one of the greater teams of the Liga and Europe and because the team, this time with their heads, have gone out to win the match. The collective pressure provided interesting balls in the rival’s area, although a flat shot by Liga newcomer Aitor Ramos in the minute 84 was the most noteworthy attempt. Valdés blocked the shot and was then ready to quickly get the ball back into play.
Barça tried to recover by bringing in Gudjohnsen for Bojan, but they too lacked the energy. The sweat, the pride of having given their all and the one point belonged to Athletic. Now, on Thursday, we have to combine the effectiveness in view of the rival’s goal area and the encouragement of an audience that knows its importance.