Athletic Club defeated Real Betis Balompié by 1-0 thanks to the goal scored by Ion…
Athletic Club defeated Real Betis Balompié by 1-0 thanks to the goal scored by Ion Vélez half an hour into the clash. The Red-Whites have obtained the 44 points before the Copa final; an amount that seems enough to keep us our minds at peace, though mathematically speaking this could be tomorrow. Besides, now that we have already reached our first objective, it’s now time for the next European competition, which to date is known as the UEFA Cup, it’s in the bag, the Red-Whites are already in the top five and have theirs sights set more now on Wednesday’s appointment with history. All thanks to the fans at San Mamés which was almost full, and whom tomorrow will be returning to see the team off, they have understood things perfectly, and have also appreciated, the fighting spirit, the commitment and the efforts made on behalf of the players who had stepped onto the turf at San Mamés, most of whom with only a few minutes under their belt as far as this season is concerned. Conclusion, we have a team and the efforts made to reach the Copa final have not been in vain and this has been the result of all the work done by the more then 25 players which make up the squad.
Those in the starting line up walked onto the pitch at San Mamés as usual today, with ambition and the strong desire to corner the rival, with a 4-4-2 formation which, a foul for example by Llorente, knew how to have enough patience to try to combine from below and confront the Betis 4-2-3-1 formation, our opponents were always nervous and divided in two at times, with tons of gunpowder in attack whilst fragile behind. In spite of all of this the first clear goal-scoring opportunity was for Edu in the 17th minute, it was the result of a good individual run which ended up in an angled shot at goal which had missed its mark.
Despite the fact that the not so habitual players were on field, Athletic were always there setting the pace of the match and, at the end of the encounter it could be seen that they were even stronger than their rival. Moreover, the combination of long and short passes made it much tougher for the Andalusians, with too many responsibilities and tied down by the threat of being relegated at times, as you’d expect. And from below the only goal of the match was scored. Garmendia couldn’t control the ball as he’d have liked in the area, but then turned things around by passing to the back, tried to make a wall with Muñoz and recovered the ball to pass it onto to Etxeberria, who passed the ball to Muñoz who was inside the area and the midfielder with a precise shot passed the ball to Ion Vélez who was able to score from the goal area.
Joy overflowed from the stands, especially because out of the three matches this one had the least number of regular players on field, victory seemed attainable. The fans knew this, what’s more, they knew it was no easy task, but all the players outdid themselves. Starting with the fireproof Armando and last but not least the fully-recovered David López. In the middle Eneko, who made a self-confident debut as a starting player, Etxeita who proved he could make the jump without plummeting, Ustaritz after having gotten over his discomfort, Balenziaga who is no stranger on the left wing, not to mention the professionalism and commitment of the two pivots, Muñoz and Gurpegi. What to say about the captain, right winger during the first half and forward in the second, Garmendia’s ability to play well between the lines or the re-encounter between Ion Vélez and the goal after having worked so hard.
And then on field and after the goal (1-0), Betis came very close to getting even. Oliveira enjoyed a clear goal-scoring opportunity, similar to that of Ion Vélez, in the 34th, but Armando’s save was spectacular seeing that the shot was taken at point blank range. In the 41st minute Armando deflected the ball with his leg after having a one to one with the powerful Emaná and then caught a shot at goal taken from outside the goal area in the 43rd minute.
In the local counter-attacks a cool head was lacking, but the team made it to the half time break ahead, which is very important in light of the second half, where they were able to prevent Betis from taking a single shot at goal.
Every fifteen minutes Nogués would add more wood to the fire. To start with, Mark González in for Nelson, Damiá was sent to cover the right wing and Edu on his wing up front. All in vain. A volley which sailed over the crossbar and another shot by Oliveira which reached the clouds were the only signs of danger from the rivals worth mentioning, despite the innumerable fouls committed in the local area. Athletic have shown they know how to compete and that they did their homework diligently to the delight of the fans crazy to hum the music of Aida, the opera not the TV series.
Betis had possession of the ball, but without the class needed. Athletic made approaches to the rival goal area and created gaps, though they did not need to do anymore than this at this stage. When it came to the game Rivera sent Cañas to the shower. Vélez finished off a shot with a header which missed a little later after having received a pass to the centre from Garmendia, who was already playing on the left with David López now on the right and Etxeberria as second forward. A foul close to a quarter of an hour into the second half, more fuel, the last wooden log to add to the fire, Pavone was sent in to substitute for left winger Fernando Vega. Also in vain.
Caparrós replied shortly afterwards by sending Amorebieta in for Eneko, sending Ustaritz to the right wing. No rush, whilst the spectators were having a ball and who are already used to matches with mosaic winners, the substitutions helped to make the sand in the hour glass less rough: Toquero stepped in for Etxeberria and almost at the end, I say almost because six minutes were added in extra time, Susaeta replaced Ion Vélez and then Betis threw in the towel.
The Lions are on the verge of making their way to Valencia to bring back the Copa. Just like the coach said in the press conference room, on one hand there’s the best team in the world at the moment and on the other hand there’s a united group who believe in their own values, which has been passed on from generation to generation, they are made from different stuff, with the whole town behind them and who no one can deprive them of their dream in their attempt to create history. Altogether we can do it, in fact we already have.