Athletic Club and Espanyol have drawn at one goal in the second leg of the…
Athletic Club and Espanyol have drawn at one goal in the second leg of the Copa Round of 16s thanks to individual goals by Jonathan, minute 68, and Susaeta, minute 77. Analyzing the overall match and, even assuming that the result is fair, a good part of the blame continues to be Athletic’s detachment with respect to goals, a pending subject this season.
The rojiblancos have played well the first half, things got tighter in the second half, in the minutes after the 0-1 Athletic lost site and recovered until they equalised the match giving way to some wide open last minutes. Everything will be decided in one week in Barcelona, where besides tearing statistics to shreds once again it will be necessary to score, a very difficult task and more so considering it’s a rival that hasn’t lost in 17 consecutive matches.
Both teams presented novelties in the starting line-ups to try to palliate the Wednesday-Sunday-Wednesday wear out. In our case Del Horno came into the starting team as did Muñoz and Susaeta, whereas Tiko came in directly from having been in the stands to the starting line-up. Espanyol, who left Tamudo and De la Peña on the bench, tried to find the counterattacks in quick transitions right from the starting whistle, but found itself with a well armed Athletic in the back and concentrated on what it wanted. The ball circulated quickly from one side to the other and the rojiblancos even tried to surprise the visitors with fast foul kicks. On one of them, in the minute 9, Iraola approached Lafuente, who is ‘on-loan’, but he was able to save the grounded shot. The attempts abounded down both flanks, but none found a ready striker and Espanyol created its clearest danger in the minute 22 from a corner kick headed high by Angel.
Our players continued to put on the pressure awaiting a sign of weakness from the rival and the only whistles that were heard were for the referee. As it’s become the norm in San Mamés, his work has been equally easy and sibylline as of lately, without giving much and requiring greater standards. When it came to making Lafuente work, our love affair with the goal was yet to arrive: Susaeta has hooked a tremendous volley in the minute 23 that the goalie saw pass him wide by only centimetres, in the 30th Muñoz shot from outside the area and the goalkeeper made a brilliant save and in the 42nd came perhaps the clearest opportunity, in this case at the boots of Yeste, but he shot high.
The image that revealed itself at the break was the usual: Athletic is not less than its rival and despite seeming superior during many segments of the match the lack of goal extends the road that leads to victory to infinity. By the second half, Caparrós had to modify the drawing, since Garmendia had replaced an injured Gabilondo in the minute 37. Yeste moved to the left wing and Garmendia played as second forward.
The first minutes announced a greater sense of balance. To a wide foul shot by Luis Garcia in the minute 46, Susaeta responded with a grounded shot which Lafuente blocked in the minute 52 and Espanyol once again responded with another wide shot by the aforementioned Luis Garcia. Shortly after, Javi Martinez replaced Tiko and in the 59th Jonathan warned of his capacity on the counterattack. Ten minutes later, with Athletic trying to reach Lafuente’s area, Jonathan lowered a long ball by Luis Garcia and additionally took advantage of our goalie’s indecision when it came to going after the ball.
It was the prologue of the most distressing minutes for our colours, on the one side because the audience was offering Aranzubia in sacrifice and, on the other, because Athletic remained in a state of shock. Ironically, it was Aranzubia who saved two dangerous occasions in the minutes 71 (Jonathan) and 73 (Torrejón). Once those two options to sentence the match were lost, Valverde tried to close it, at least on the field, by introducing Moisés. However, he wasn’t given time to see the outcome of the bet.
At least Athletic was faithful to some of its virtues: persistence, perseverance and pride. Thus, in the minute 77, Susaeta reached a loose ball near the area and lodged it into Espanyol’s goal. A draw and open final stretch, although without goals. Amorebieta, also injured, left his post to Prieto. For the opponents, Valverde brought in Tamudo and De La Peña with the hope that their mere presence would be destabilizing. There’s still a week left to see the outcome of the competition, but before that we must overcome the Liga exam with today’s spirit, and most importantly, with goals.
Finally, a brief reflection on what seems to be becoming, to say the least, a dangerous habit during the course of some matches and which has already taken delight in tormenting some players (Aranzubia, Llorente…): it’s not in good taste to whistle at some of our own players with reiteration, much less during the course of the game, and not only because they are probably the same, more so in the case of our Athletic, who will have to jump on the field to defend our colours in San Mamés in a few days or weeks, but, essentially, because their errors or their success are ours so long as they are participants in a collective sport in which cheers or applause don’t recognise watertight compartments, without a doubt. Let’s not forget that, and let’s not humiliate ourselves to that point.