Athletic Club are still on a roll after defeating RCD Espanyol by (1-0) with a…
Athletic Club are still on a roll after defeating RCD Espanyol by (1-0) with a beautiful header scored by Garmendia in the 13th minute. With the longed for peace of mind practically assured, it’s the sixth consecutive match without a loss, we are ten points away from the relegation spots and eighth in the standings and, it looks like the moment has arrived to towards the top of the League ladder. Although making it to the UEFA might be a difficult task right now, our possible participation in the Intertoto Cup in seventh place doesn’t seem to be so difficult though.
In order to do this our team should persevere with regards to its main virtue i.e. of being a team, a virtue which is worth repeating, and demonstrated against our direct rival, Espanyol. Espanyol, who have obtained an awesome 36 points in the first half of the season, had sworn that San Mamés would mean a radical change for them, but found themselves up against a team which is growing day by day. The end justifies the means. It was obvious that in the second half Athletic had difficulties, but not in vain is Athletic one of the First Division teams who have had the least goals scored against them along with FC Barcelona. Imbued with this spirit the fans, who almost packed San Mamés understood perfectly that this match meant more than just three points, recognizing the importance of a triumph which signifies that it’s time to say good bye to the fear and cold sweats of the two last seasons, something we have all worked hard for.
The clash was even at the start of the game but the Red-Whites had more of the ball and had more initiative, applying the pressure and moving the ball well along both wings as well. San Mamés has become an almost unconquerable feud this half of the season and only Villarreal has been able to win here. What’s more in line with the healthy custom of scoring early in the match, Garmendia scored a spectacular goal in the 13th minute. Gabilondo had sent a good pass to the centre of the area and Garmendia, in the starting line up today, scored with a header which was taken decisively and with good aim. In a very similar place as in the match against Getafe, at the same goal area, with identical determination, but happily without striking the rival goalkeeper.
With the advantage of being ahead on the scoreboard Athletic kept on attacking, playing their game and not allowing Espanyol to progress. Espanyol had announced in its day that they wouldn’t give the ball away even if there were rival players on the ground injured and, as a demonstration, that they would ask their adversaries if they had knocked them down just in case, a contradiction that has exasperated both players and public. It was all up to the referee a newcomer for Athletic and, therefore, at the Cathedral, a situation that without a doubt the referee was able to take advantage of, to call all the fouls he could and a few more.
Espanyol did not look dangerous but our team did as shown when Garmendia passed the ball to Javi Martinez whose shot at goal ended up in the stands after facing up to Kameni in the 27th minute. Yeste, who was injured, was replaced by Muñoz in the 36th minute and in the 39th, a one-off, Espanyol could have equalised the encounter but Rufete’s shot at goal had struck the post. A move that had brought back the image of a team well equipped technically speaking and a team who knew how to create danger. Nevertheless, after the fright, Athletic could have put the match on the right track just before the break but the deep pass which had left Susaeta in front of Kameni was struck with too much of an angle by Susaeta despite the goalie having flung himself in the opposite direction.
In get the second half underway, Valverde replaced his two wingers: Coro stepped in for Rufete and Riera for Valdo, which gave his team more punch. After Tamudo’s shot at goal was well caught by Armando in the 53rd minute, Llorente had a go in the 56th minute but his header found the cross bar. Soon afterwards Etxeberria was sent in to replace Garmendia without changing the scenario. One hour into the match a bad pass by Iraola fell to Riera’s feet, but Aitor Ocio was able to repel the ball from under the posts. Riera tried once again, from a foul but Armando was in position this time.
Koikili replaced Del Horno, who had been warned, in the 67th minute so that the blow could be stopped as a result of the incursions made by Coro down that wing. In the opponent’s area, Llorente had time to create a new goal-scoring opportunity in the 68th minute but a foul had put an end to all of that, fouls which are seldom called in our favour now that the referees have started comparing him to Urzaiz, as if our forward is to blame for being strong and for not protecting himself. However, Athletic did protect themselves with plenty of decorum, but then Susaeta pushed Tamudo inside the area in the 73rd minute and the penalty kick awarded was a sign that our peace of mind was going to have to wait, but Tamudo’s shot at goal sailed over Armando’s cross bar.
The Blue-Whites took the blow and Athletic were gaining ground and ball possession, even Javi Martinez had an opportunity, which went high in the 85th minute and then a goal by Llorente was rightly annulled in the 92nd minute for being offside. Despite everything, Espanyol tried their hardest right till the final whistle blow, with a bold individual move by Coro.
It seems that our first objective has been reached, seeing that our aim was to get some peace of mind for a team in reconstruction after the last two anxious seasons. Peace of mind which a lot of teams would like to have. On the other hand, for some members of the media the noteworthy news is that we are still standing and giving hell with our individual, neither better nor worse, philosophy. This is not news for us.