This is Athletic Club’s first away victory so far this Liga. Javi Martinez scored the…
This is Athletic Club’s first away victory so far this Liga. Javi Martinez scored the header from a centre by Susaeta shortly before the break and during the rest of the match the rojiblancos showed the virtues of the last weeks: firm on defence and effective on attack, mainly in strategic plays. The defensive work started with both forwards and on the counterattacks they hurt Betis a great deal.
Also, besides dealing with the hostile environment, our players have known how to overcome the injuries of David Lopez and Murillo, both in the first quarter hour. The rival, as has become routine in the last matches, has hardly had opportunities. They had one in the first half, the only one of that period, by Sergio Garcia and a second, saved by Iraizoz in the final stretch. After all an important victory that serves to leave relegation six points away thereby leaving more and more teams behind.
Our team came onto the field with the same prescription as in Santander; that is, with very tight lines, pressing forward and with long balls, almost always diagonally, to the forwards to try to break the béticos’ lateral rises. Javi Martinez gave the first warning with a header that he couldn’t connect well in the minute 4, an advance of what he would eventually end up sending into the net before the break. The Andalusians couldn’t overcome the spider’s web, but not everything smelled of roses.
In the minute 6, David Lopez was booked with his fifth yellow card, which will prevent him from playing against Espanyol, but even worse was his sprained right ankle. In spite of trying to continue on the pitch, in the minute 11, he had to leave his spot to Susaeta.
The misfortunes did not end there, since Murillo, who came on the team for the first time, had to leave the match after suffering a sprain to his left knee when he cleared a ball level with the ground. His position was covered by Xabi Etxeita, for whom playing the right wing was as novel an experience as doing so in First Division, though he far exceeded himself. Nevertheless, the team suffered an almost generalized confusion during those minutes in which it had to rearrange its lines, but it also passed the test before a Betis that was proving more and more incapable of reaching the top despite the cheering from the stands.
The following attempt has been for Susaeta, but his shot went wide in the minute 26. Meanwhile, Llorente and Vélez had some individual runs, but they missed calculated the last shots. Sergio Garcia, the best opponent yesterday, did not do it either after his shot with the left in the minute 33 went wide; the best and only attempt by Betis in the first half.
The final stretch of the first half has been Athletic’s, thanks to the fact that it enjoyed more ball possession and, in addition, it obtained what is known as a psychological goal. Just before, in the minute 42, Etxeita could have trained not only as a winger but also as a goalscorer in the first team, but his Chilean didn’t surpass a defender who was under the woods. Things went better for Javi Martinez who, in the 43 and after receiving a precise pass from Susaeta, connected a perfect header that in the end has been worth three comforting points.
As in Santander, it was not only important to score first, we also had to maintain the ball away from Iraizoz and control the match in spite of the avalanche that was anticipated in the second half.
Back from the changing rooms, Chaparro wanted to print a more offensive character to his team by bringing on Pavone and Xisco to substitute Juanma and Juande. Pavone took up a more offensive reference and Sergio Garcia, the boy for everything, changed to the offensive midfield. The recently incorporated Xisco headed high in the minute 48, but Betis has not been able to bottle up the rojiblancos, who little by little recovered meters.
The third and last local substitution has been, in addition, contested by their own followers perhaps because Jose Mari’s entrance for Nelson has brought to mind their sevillista past. On the slate, the recently incorporated placed himself beside Pavone, Damiá moved back to the right and Sergio Garcia once again packed his suitcases to play the right forward; again, all in vain.
On the contrary, the best options have been for our team. A very clear one when Llorente culminated a counterattack in the minute 69 with a pass to Ion Vélez. This one stood in front of Casto, but his shot was deflected to corner by the goalkeeper. Another one after a corner, but neither Javi Martinez nor Etxeita has been able to push the ball, which slipped through Casto’s hands, to goal.
Caparrós, very well remembered by Betis fans and not precisely for the good, brought in Gabilondo for Yeste in the minute 81, and the just incorporated player tested the opponent’s goalie with a shot from outside the area in the minute 86. In the 87th, and although Athletic did not have difficulties, Pavone found himself a ball in the area and faced off with Iraizoz, but the goalie deflected just enough to send it to corner. And that’s where the match ended, between the local’s impotence and the visitors work, just as our team deserved and needed. Ten points out of twelve and a first away victory is a good haul for another matchday with the door at zero.
The victory, tarnished only by the two mentioned injuries, also supposes a six point comfort mattress from the relegation posts, overtaking Betis, Racing and Almeria in the classification and thus confront the holiday break with calm and a more gratifying perspective in view of the 2009 challenges; the first of which to defeat Espanyol and start looking upwards on the table. Let it be that way.
By the way, the following appears in the crowd section of the match report: In the minute 78, a 500cl plastic bottle that contained water was thrown from the stands to the second assistant referee, though it was closed it did not hit the referee or any match participants. No comment.