Athletic Club has lost 2-0 against Racing in the first leg of the Copa quarterfinals…
Athletic Club has lost 2-0 against Racing in the first leg of the Copa quarterfinals and now faces an uphill qualification with the second leg still to be played in San Mamés. Tchité, with a header in the 74th minute and Smolarek, though offside, in the minute 77, have been the authors of the goals.
Unlike what happened in the Liga, Racing has been the dominating as well as the stronger team, although perhaps the goals arrived when they were least expected. Just 33 seconds into the match, Serrano forced Aranzubia to deflect a shot to corner and in the 8th minute Iván Bolado took his spot between both centres, but his shot on goal was off target. The match, at least when it came to approaches to the area, has been balanced, though Athletic didn’t make a dangerous approach until the minute 20, when Aduriz couldn’t take up position to shoot on goal from within the area after the free-kick and more clearly, in the 33rd, when he received a long pass from Del Horno, but the keeper, Coltorti, was readily awaiting the ball.
The locals insisted on attacking down their right wing with combinations or long balls, mainly towards Tchité, although not as clearly as in the first minutes. For that reason, until the break, we can only draw attention to a ground shot by Serrano which Aranzubia easily deflected in the minute 36.
At the start-up, Racing continued carrying the initiative, but with less determination; though Bolado almost scored with his back in the minute 58. The rojiblanca pressure appeared somewhat more adjusted and ball recoveries took place in Racing’s field, although the team continued to suffer from a lack of possession to look for holes in the rival’s end and precision in their approaches. To score, more so after seeing the final result, was a pending subject to pass tonight and despite the fact that both forwards were aligned since the beginning, it’s still a pending basic subject matter.
Garmendia came in for Llorente in the minute 59, without true changes to the team’s disposition. Meanwhile, Gabilondo shot a header high in the 61 and Tchité’s shot brushed the post in the 63. Racing was no longer creating danger, but it didn’t run either, though they introduced Duscher for the injured Jordi and Smolarek for Iván Bolado in the minute 65, with Serrano leaving his position to Pablo Alvarez in the 73. We began the countdown with a decent result for the second leg, but just as occurred in Pamplona, in this case with no send-off in the way, in just three minutes everything hung by a thread.
And it could have been even worse. Racing, rooted on by its fans in the stands and spurred by the other’s errors, had several dangerous counter-plays; especially one by Jorge Lopez whose centred shot was stopped by Aranzubia.
Tiko came in for Muñoz in the minute 82. And in the final stretch Athletic tried to do things more with their hearts than with their heads and created almost more danger than in the whole match. Garmendia, though forced, shot wide in the 87; a shot by Gabilondo was deflected by Coltorti in the 88 and in injury time Aduriz wasn’t able to push a free-kick by Tiko into the net. Perhaps that is the approach to take, for a team that doesn’t know how to wait, or at least doesn’t feel comfortable, but we’ll only know it come next Thursday.
What is clear is that to climb the uphill in which this qualifying round has turned into, the team will have to do better and since there isn’t much time for test runs or regrets, it will have to first overcome the revaluation of FC Barcelona with an end to its goal dry spell in the horizon. Let’s hope that, despite the statistics, things turn out better in San Mamés.