Athletic Club will be in the Copa Round of 16 draw to be held this…
Athletic Club will be in the Copa Round of 16 draw to be held this 4th of January; a drawing of lots which will most certainly bring about, except for any major surprises, a First Division rival. In the Round of 32, Hércules has fallen in San Mamés after receiving individual goals by David Lopez and Aduriz. The Second win in San Mamés this season which, ironically, came in a match in which a nil-nil draw or a single goal would have been enough.
All victories are welcomed since, besides facilitating the advancement to the next Copa round without fears, they help to boost the confidence in the own work. On this occasion Athletic Club has been superior throughout the match and only the lack of aim or ability before the rival’s goal, depending on how we look at it, delayed the awaited and hoped for finish.
The Copa starting line-up brought us the return of Del Horno, Murillo and Garmendia, while the rest was a group of more habitual players. With the first leg result as reference, the initiative was yielded to Hércules, however Goikoetxea’s players were unable to generate danger and only the balls in strategic plays appeared to be the visitor’s threat. The Alicantinos had difficulty showing it, but in the minute 27, after a rebound from a corner shot, a Chilean by Caesar crashed against the crossbar which served to warn the rojiblancos. until then, Athletic had done everything: Aduriz finished off a centre by Gabilondo high in the minute 8; in the 10th, also Aduriz, shot on goal to Hércules’ goal with the involuntary help of a defender; recently reappeared Garmendia shot on goal a centre by Del Horno from a forced position and in the 20th a shot by Del Horno was warded off by a defence. Still in the first half, Unai Alba made an excellent block to Garmendia’s ending shot ending a good team effort. In spite of the above mentioned, as series of strategic plays by the visitors added a darker tint to the final stretch of the first half.
With the purpose of driving away ghosts, since the nil-nil turned any mistake in an almost permanent drama, Athletic came out more vertical in the second half; they pressured higher in the back and combined better on more occasions, as for example during the first minutes. In the 47th, the world turned upside-down: Gabilondo headed a centre by Aduriz to the crossbar; in the 51st the culmination of a well-driven counterattack was not ideal and the final cross by Gabilondo didn’t find any strikers; neither did Aduriz’ header in the minute 54; nor was there an answer to a push on Aduriz in the minute 55 when he tried to shoot another header. A play of similar characteristics was considered a penalty by the referee in the minute 89 of play. For one or other reasons the point that would contribute to calmness just didn’t come about.
Llorente came in for Garmendia on the hour of play and Ariel TMT did the same for Cámara. Athletic was looking for the goal, Hércules to recover a midfield which it had already inevitably lost. Both teams made other changes almost at once around the minute 70: Murillo left his post to Muñoz and Sendoa to Ismael. The encounter entered decisive moments and Athletic struck in a definitive way. A counterattack was cut short by Cesar with a foul, and a card, on Muñoz. The caution was masterly executed by David Lopez and the goal evolved, also on the marker, into the classification in the minute 72.
Two minutes later Javi González replaced Farinós and Hércules had its chance to get back into the game after a ball slipped from Aranzubia’s hands, but Amorebieta saved the rebound from under the woods. It was the only opportunity for Hércules in the whole second half. Well, that and the rebound on the back of the referee when our goalie took the goal kick but with his hands.
The last stretch of the game was all in favour of work. Without any real danger, holding the ball and waiting for the arrival of a clear counterattack. It wasn’t from a counterattack but from a corner kick when a push on Del Horno turned into a penalty and Aduriz was able to score. It was already the minute 89 of a game in which a draw would have sufficed but that ended in a victory. Now we have to wait for the Copa Draw before thinking about the Liga. May the hustle and bustle last!