Athletic Club and Espanyol drew at one in San Mamés. Moisés Hurtado and Iraola scored…
Athletic Club and Espanyol drew at one in San Mamés. Moisés Hurtado and Iraola scored the goals. All this occurred in a match in which Athletic dominated in spurts before a well-ordered opponent who has known how to obtain excellent results from their well-worked strategic game. The awaited victory to break ties with the tail on the table did not arrive, but at least the draw allows us to maintain the same distance with relegation positions and today’s rival, six points, although the road, as was already assumed, will still be as long as it will be difficult. The worst that came out of this match were the injuries suffered by Orbaiz and Amorebieta and Balenziaga being booked with his fifth yellow card. On the positive side, the debut by Toquero, who enjoyed his first thirty minutes as an Athletic Club player in an official match, however he was unable to round off the afternoon with a goal.
The staging by Athletic Club has been energetic and already in the first minute Yeste had his attempt, but his left footed shot went high. Espanyol had difficulties crossing the midfield line with the ball under control, but it soon demonstrated that the way to danger would come at the hand of strategic plays; for example the hand ball that Iraizoz had to save just over the crossbar in the minute 9 from a free-kick by Nené. Meanwhile, our team tried to set the pace of the match and penetrate down the sidelines, mainly down the right. On the other hand, Espanyol insisted on closing Llorente’s path. Despite it all, for twenty minutes Athletic had three opportunities to get ahead, each one clearer. Javi Martinez headed high in the minute 14, though the referee indicated corner, in the 17th, the turn was for Fernando Llorente from a cross by Susaeta, but his header, in perfect position, went wide and three minutes later a one-two by Susaeta and Iraola ended with a deadly pass by the first, but the shot on goal with the right by Javi Martinez ran into the post. A pity because Athletic already seemed accustomed to putting its matches on track soon and managing the advantages with sound judgment.
It did not happen like that and strengths soon stabilized, especially because Espanyol was interested in executing the match and that it have everything except high game pace. In fact, if we discard a couple of interventions by Iraizoz before Nené, the risk came from set pieces, a discipline always well-worked by Mané and Ondarru.
And that’s how Espanyol got ahead in the minute 37, when Moisés connected a header to the near post making useless the presence of several local players. The later minutes were confusing and in them Luis Garcia tried a free-kick from long range, with yet another ball cleared over the crossbar by Iraizoz and shortly before the break, while Athletic wanted but couldn’t, in a similar corner, the rojiblancos removed the ball from under the woods as they could and Iraizoz took control of the rebound.
It was not a result of those considered fair, however the second half was yet ahead. Athletic once again came out with sparks from the changing rooms, but unable to create clear danger. Caparrós began moving the bench rather soon, since in the minute 54 Etxeberria replaced Yeste. The captain took his usual position and Susaeta changed to the left wing. Shortly after, in the minute 61, Toquero came in for Ion Vélez and ten minutes later he enjoyed his first attempt, but Kameni easily stopped the header.
Espanyol yielded more and more meters, something that is not always synonymous of danger, though statistically the chances that the opponent arrives increase. Callejón replaced Coro, however danger was conspicuous by its absence in the rojiblanca goal … except for a corner against which, in the minute 72, Ocio combed backwards and Balenziaga removed from just under woods. The passing of minutes did not mitigate the rojiblanco drive and the team left quite clear that it is not one to give in easily, not even in the worst of circumstances, since in the 78th minute Orbaiz had to leave the field injured after a hard foul by Moisés who already deserved more than a yellow card, which he’d been looking for during the match by the repeated fouls committed. The match referee, who did not please anyone, since the españolistas demanded a red card to Ocio in the first half and the rojiblancos a penalty on Llorente in the 89th for being practically coiled by three rivals, has corroborated that his criterion at the time of handing out cards was as uneven as that applied to the fouls indicated.
Gurpegi occupied Orbaiz’ position and joined the final assault. Coming out of a corner in the minute 81 and after a scuffle in the rival’s area, Toquero returned the ball to the hot zone with a header and there Iraola accommodated the ball to score the Chilean. Perhaps the words of the manager in press room are somewhat exaggerated comparing when Iraola with more renown players, but the truth is that if the goal had another last name we would get bored of seeing it. Iraola himself even enjoyed another occasion for the somersault to be complete, but Kameni deflected his line drive to corner in the minute 85.
And in this frenetic beginning of 2009, arrives the Copa, an exciting challenge to combine with a more than tight Liga, and which on Thursday, 8 January, will take to us to Iruña.