Athletic Club defeated Real Valladolid by 2-0, with goals from Llorente and Iraola, from a…
Athletic Club defeated Real Valladolid by 2-0, with goals from Llorente and Iraola, from a penalty, thereby achieving their first Liga win this season. In addition to the three points that leave, after as many matchdays, Athletic in the middle of the table, what’s most important is that the team has dissipated the doubts it generated in the inaugural match and has demonstrated it is able to read matches well and play with similar intensity and determination throughout the ninety minutes.
The players lead by Mendilibar were not an easy rival, just as was verified in the last preseason match, and the first minutes have been a collection of battles and pressure in every corner of the field with no concession to the rival. Both teams wanted to reach the goal immediately, Athletic by surpassing the rival centre field with long balls to Llorente and Vélez and Valladolid with attempts to remove the midfielders from their positions and start the counterattacks. An obvious example of the ruling equality, one of the characteristics that are presumed for this Liga, is that until the minute 24 no clear goal occasion was created. It was Llorente that finished off a corner kick by David Lopez, but after winning his position he shot the ball wide.
From that point on, Athletic didn’t stop and the initiative has been solely rojiblanca until the break. In the following play, Marcos handed the ball in the area, but the referee didn’t consider it a penalty. It seemed a clearer play than the later one that served for the 2-0. Our players continued doing their thing and so did Sergio Asenjo, and thanks to him, among others, Valladolid went to the break without fitting any valid goals. For starters, the goalie turned away a level shot by David Lopez, who had already changed wings with Susaeta and in the minute 33 they ruined an occasion by Ion Vélez, who was debuting as a starter. And when the goalkeeper wasn’t in the way, the small details deprived Athletic of better luck. For example, when a penetration by another newcomer to San Mamés, Balenziaga, couldn’t be finished off by Llorente after he slipped right in the goalmouth or when a pumped up ball by David Lopez surpassed him… but went wide.
However, the clearest goal occasion came in injury time. Balenziaga shot into the area, Amorebieta yielded a header to Ion Vélez for the score. Everything was well done except for the assistant. Valladolid, on the other hand, was not a threat except in a couple of high shots from the edge of the area. In addition, during the first half we’ve even had time to see some humorous details after what we’ve lived this past week. After the statements by the second coach of the Valladolid team regarding the ruses that our coach presumably instils on players to waste time and to hear that his team ‘only’ plays, we’ve actually seen how they’ve kicked the ball out to cut the rival’s pace. In other words, what all the teams in the world do whenever they can and whenever it’s convenient for them.
At the re-start, the first play was practically the best option for Valladolid in the whole match. A short free-kick, which has taken to the rojiblancos by surprise, was shot on goal by Alvaro Rucio, but Iraizoz deflected the shot. Perhaps to do away with the ghosts of pessimism, Athletic Club applied itself to work in order to culminate the task initiated in the first half. Llorente and Sergio Asenjo each followed their role in the minute 49, great header and better deflection. The ricochet right to the feet of Ion Vélez but his later centre couldn’t find a striker.
There seem no way to score, but Athletic Club didn’t lose faith in what it was doing and, a couple of minutes later laced an excellent team play that allowed it to open things up. Gurpegi picked up a ball at the midfield, Javi Martinez dribbled it close to the area, he passed it to Susaeta, who noticed Balenziaga doubling him and the newcomer’s cross to the far post was finished off, this time for sure, into the net by Llorente. The most difficult stretch was already covered, which was no obstacle for Athletic not to step back, instead it has persevered on the attack. Ion Vélez shot a volley high and the referee didn’t see a push on Javi Martinez in the area in the minute 53.
Before the hour, Mendilibar ordered a double change from the technical area in search of the equalizer: Víctor and Ogbeche came in for Aguirre and Borja, to create a more offensive 4-3-3, but equally ineffective, just as the Zaldivar coach recognized in the latter press conference. In our line-up another debut, Del Olmo substituted David Lopez and just as he came in enjoyed a clear goal opportunity ruined by Asenjo and five minutes later his attempt at a chip went wide.
To add fuel to the fire, Canobbio replaced a midfielder, Nano, leaving the former lion Luis Prieto alone in that area, while Iturraspe knew San Mamés from within instead of Gurpegi. The scenery didn’t change either, but the scant advantage made the attainment of a second goal decisive, the one of security. And this one came from a penalty, perhaps the penalty that least seemed like one out of all those protested. Maybe that’s why Iraola had to shoot it twice that he had called to shoot; twice, both good and both into the net. With the match on track, a couple of trials before Iraizoz and a ball to the post after a cross by Etxeberria have been the most prominent.
Athletic Club has obtained the three points and, at the same time, it’s given reasons to trust on a gradual improvement, although everyone knows that in football the tendencies, the situations and the points of view change in a very short time. That’s why today’s point will pass the test on Thursday in Huelva.