Athletic Club defeated Valencia by 5-1 (Javi Martinez, Llorente 2, Iraola and Aduriz; Villa on…
Athletic Club defeated Valencia by 5-1 (Javi Martinez, Llorente 2, Iraola and Aduriz; Villa on behalf of the visiting team) and besides rounding off a perfect night, our team have scared off the spooks which may have appeared if we had lost. The pace, the pressure, the fighting spirit, the courage and vigour coupled with a large dose of quality just as shown in one of the goals scored. In the end, five were scored, but it could have been six if the linesman hadn’t led to the annulment of the goal scored by Etxeberria, who was in no way in an offside position.
The five goals scored by our team is not something you see everyday. One must go back in time to San Mamés during the last century: League (1998-1999 Athletic Club 5-Alavés 0, 1997-1998 Athletic Club 5-Mérida 1 and 1996-1997 Athletic Club 6-Logroñés 0 and Athletic Club 5-Hércules 0) but not in Copa, because the final result of the match against Lanzarote in 2004-2005 was 6-0. Curiously away from home similar results can be had this century for example, the 1-5 against Osasuna in the 2002-2003 season and the unforgettable 1-7 against Standard de Lieja in the 2004-05 UEFA Cup.
On this occasion the five goals were scored against the recent Copa Champions, a team full of illustrious names in the football world, however, they are suffering from similar ills to those suffered by our team in previous seasons. Which is why at San Mamés the cries of “To Second Division” did not go down well with the crowd, despite the fact that our expedition members have heard these cries before at numerous grounds, as well as in Valencia. Difficult times for any team and one has to understand the crudeness of the situation therefore our fans get an A+ for this.
On our behalf, thanks to today’s three points, we are nine points away from the relegation spots, one from the Intertoto, five from the UEFA and another nine points away from the Champions League. This reflects the enormous equilibrium that exists in the League. Five matches still to go and the doors are wide open in spite of the undeniably difficult opponents to come.
This triumph has put an end to the unfounded accusations made at the end of our last match, in Riazor, concerning our winning streak of six matches without a loss. To insinuate or affirm that Athletic had practically let up after having achieved 43 points (from what can be seen may be insufficient in the end) just goes to show the lack of equilibrium which surrounds football commentaries in general and Athletic in particular. Yesterday it was though we had said goodbye to the European competitions and now today there is high praise and the talk about the reappearance of objectives. And that is how the expression match by match goes. Anyway, football should continue to be football in defeat and in victory.
And football being the way it is, Valencia surely didn’t expect the punishment they received at San Mamés. And even less in the first minutes of the encounter, not because they didn’t deserve to be ahead, but because both teams had demonstrated an excessive dose of mutual respect and an almost identical dose of errors committed. Both wanted, but both lost possession of the ball without reaching the hot zones. In our team, what’s more, the player in charge of dynamizing the team, Yeste, was having trouble with his right ankle and this slowed down the pace of the Red-Whites a lot. Nevertheless our first goal was scored by Javi Martinez, with the inestimable collaboration of Albiol, in the 20th minute marked the tendency of the game. The tendency being Athletic on the rise and Valencia the opposite. Athletic set the pace, put on the pressure shamelessly and except for a foul taken by Villa; the Ches did little else when it came to looking dangerous in the entire first half period. The 1-4-1-4-1 formation proposed by Koeman could do little against the Red-White one, but strangely enough our players failed to take advantage of their all too many opportunities, which were just as difficult as they were spectacular.
The Red-Whites went to the changing room with what seems to be the traditional advantage at the break and, therefore, with the usual doubt, will the second half be full of suffering and non-stop defensive work? In the meantime Valencia came back onto the field with Joaquin and Morientes instead of Maduro and Arizmendi. Dynamite for the 1-4-4-2 formation. Theoretically, those who speak badly about others say that the players in orange yesterday prefer this formation. For Athletic Club Garmendia was sent in to replace an injured Yeste.
The doubts immediately disappeared, seeing that in the 47th minute Athletic scored a goal worthy of an ovation that if it had been scored by any other team would have attracted more press and would take up more space in prime time TV. Iraola passed the ball to the centre of the field to Etxeberria who passed it on to Susaeta, who was right beside him, and Susaeta kicked it deep down the wing to Iraola who passed it back to Etxeberria who before entering the area kicked a line shot and the ball went between the legs of a rival towards Llorente. The forward from Iruñea touched the ball with the toes of his right foot and the ball found the back of the net. Two goals to zero.
Valencia did not surrender and Morientes, whose line shot was repelled by Armando, and Joaquin whose shot at goal went astray, tried their luck against an electrified Athletic, smarter and more alive than ever, as upright as they were fast and who in the 66th minute had put an end to the clash. A perfect deep pass by Garmendia to Llorente all began when the forward who had chipped the ball was interrupted, but Mora was not able to catch it correctly and Llorente scored the goal with a good turn of the foot from the rebound. Three goals to zero.
Edu replaced Mata and Valencia were strengthened, while Caparrós sent Aduriz in for Llorente. At this stage Villa reduced the lead from a foul, with the inestimable aid of Amorebieta. It was the 75th minute, but Athletic were not about to make any concessions and kept the foot on the accelerator. Etxeberria had a goal annulled which would have been like the icing on the cake for all his hard work between the lines today, but he continued collaborating with the team in their task. This being the state of things Iraola was rewarded with a goal in the 85th minute. Iraola intercepted the ball on his side of the field, passed it on to Susaeta, who then passed it on to Etxeberria and the forward’s deep pass was intercepted by Iraola who hadn’t stopped moving forward. After having it out with a defender he took a line shot with his left. Four goals to one.
And always willing to share the limelight, Aduriz also took advantage of his minutes on field with numerous interventions one of which we should highlight is the one he just missed after dribbling against Albiol, a shot at goal by Etxeberria went in but the referee unfairly annulled it on the linesman’s request and then a header by Aduriz found the back of the net during extra time with the help of Etxeberria once again. Five goals to one.
Victory over Valencia, fair and well deserved, although Koeman added a touch of humour when he said that Athletic were lucky in scoring five goals out of eight attempts. Now our next match is against the leaders who may be able to proclaim themselves champions, mathematically speaking, after our next match or at any time. An appointment at Santiago Bernabéu that, no matter what happens on the scoreboard will be a happy day if Carlos Gurpegi finally makes his comeback, which seems likely, to the playing field. Nowhere else but at the Bernabéu Stadium. Football is like this and just as mentioned before should be taken as it comes.