Athletic Club lost 2-0 at the Camp Nou against FC Barcelona, with goals scored in…
Athletic Club lost 2-0 at the Camp Nou against FC Barcelona, with goals scored in the first half by Busquets, after heading in a free-kick, and Messi, after converting a nonexistent penalty. The Catalans have been superior, especially in the second half, with no apparent sign of the crisis they presumably suffered.
In the second half, ironically, the overwhelming superiority of FC Barcelona did not translate into goals, as the saves by Iraizoz and his teammates’ actions in the goalmouth on the one hand, and the posts and crossbars on the other were a determining factor in not allowing too many goals before a team that started off with the intention of once again aiming toward League dominance with a greater mathematical difference.
Before centring on the regularity tourney and authorized by Wednesday’s developments, two conclusions can be made off-the-cuff and with no scientific rigor: just as occurred against Sevilla, the Copa match will be totally different and, the second, let’s see if for that appointment with history, in the shape of a final almost a quarter century later, we are assigned a referee that is not Undiano Mallenco, because whenever the braided man’s path crosses Athletic Club’s something almost always happens … and not precisely for the best. On the other hand, the later Copa semi-final exhaustion, repeated seven headlines with respect to Wednesday, cannot be justification for a match that ended up with little game and zero points.
Just as expected, ball possession has been mostly for Barcelona, although in the first half our team closed off the local’s normal penetration routes. However, a squad labelled as a team in crisis obtained its goals from strategy and from a penalty, clearly improving in the second half with the tailwind. All of this, when it comes referring to the rival, made us ask the question that the rock group Supertramp asked in 1975: ‘Crisis? What Crisis?’
It’s well known that to score in the Camp Nou that bit of luck that is necessary is, besides scarce, fundamental. It’s funny that it smiled on our team in the second half, when it was no longer necessary for more than not damaging the high self-esteem that accompanies us, and it turned its back in the first half, decisive when it came to steering the match. Bad luck in game development too, since we went from possibly taking the lead and multiplying doses of anxiety to conceding the 1-0. Susaeta crossed to Yeste in the minute 16 and in spite of overtaking Valdés in the one-on-one, his shot went wide, just barely, but wide. Practically in the next play, an absolutely unnecessary foul called by the match referee, brought about the first goal after Busquets finished off Xavi’s free-kick as he pleased.
And luck with the referee. Beyond having to wait almost twenty minutes to accrue fouls in our favour, the fact that, as occurred to us last year, we must also carry the insult of a boastful penalty, in a scenario and against a rival such as this, does not help at all. Iniesta confronted Gurpegi; yesterday’s centre back remained still and even made the gesture of trying to pull away and the midfielder looked for contact as he threw himself. Penalty and protests in vain.
Until the interval Athletic appeared to rise, though it didn’t get past the individual threats by Gabilondo, flat outside, and Javi Martinez, a high header. It’s not that Barcelona enjoyed clear occasions except for a play by Messi and a Chilean by Henry, but with ball at their feet and room behind the wingers, especially down the side where Messi attacked, gave more sense of danger.
In the second half, we went from sensation to ascertainment. Toquero replaced Javi Martinez on restart, changing Yeste to the ‘double pivot’. Barcelona manoeuvred with more room and composure and at times our team lost its tension even in strategy plays. Fortunately, it did not cost them more than the points they had already lost, since Iraizoz, with Iraola under woods and, as a last resort, the posts and crossbar prevented that an authentic avalanche of plays and blaugranas attempts from becoming goals, especially on the part of Etóo and Henry. Thank goodness.
Without exerting pressure and with the defence trying to get out, without possession and with opponents determined on increasing the distance with respect to second place, the best has been the end of the match. The tendency and experience also indicated that it was wise to lessen the damage. That’s why Llorente, on the hour of play, and Orbaiz, a quarter hour later when his second yellow inevitably drew near, gave way to Garmendia and Muñoz, respectively. Athletic showed courage and pride, but only one attempt by Iraola in the 78, a volley with little angle, deserves to be highlighted. Little baggage and the need to retake the pulse of the league as quickly as possible in order to obtain the three or four wins necessary to ensure a quiet finish in the Liga. To do this, the next visitor has all the bad things of being second in the classification and all the good things of being Real Madrid, a duel par excellence for our colours. It’s a match that must be confronted with the same determination as the last Copa appointment in San Mamés, but thinking only on the Liga.