Athletic Club defeated Recreativo de Huelva (2-0) in the first leg of the Copa Round…
Athletic Club defeated Recreativo de Huelva (2-0) in the first leg of the Copa Round of 32 and has taken an important step toward playing the quarterfinal. Ion Vélez and David Lopez, both in the first half, have been the authors of the goals. The rojiblancos were superior throughout most of the game, which is perhaps why when the match ended the ruling sensation in the changing room and stands of San Mamés was the regret of losing the opportunity of sentencing the round. However, what is positive and for now tangible is that the losing streak has ended and the team did not allow any goals. In the end, it’s a result that anyone would have signed for before disputing the first leg.
Both teams ran onto San Mamés with numerous changes with respect to the last Liga matchday and watching each other out of the corner of their eyes. Of the eleven that started in Santiago Bernabéu five repeated in our rows and another five for Recreativo; comparing it with the line-up against Valencia. An interesting fact because being from Bilbao more than one will comment, publish and drop the idea that Recreativo came here with their B team or for a stroll, without noticing that the Copa is a competition with a calendar that makes rotations almost inevitable.
Athletic Club wanted to offer a lively match to the fans who defied tendencies and the inclement weather of this early winter, and filled San Mamés to more than half its capacity. With this in mind, and with less pressure than in the Liga, they took the initiative and created the first attempts, as for example the shot by Ion Vélez repelled by Lamas and another by Iraola blocked by Roberto. Facing was a team with a similar 4-4-2, but yet more blunt on the attack. The match entered a laborious phase in which Athletic was mining the rival until finding the turning point and from then, and until the break, it was all rojiblanco.
In the minute 24, Ion Vélez asked for a penalty that did not appear as such although the referee made a gesture of whistling and eight minutes later, Ion himself with his left opened the scoreboard after finishing off a centre from Iraola from the right. The most difficult stretch, to outshine the onubense resistance, was completed. From that point on Athletic began believing in their strength. A run by Iraola was parried off with the hand by a defender in the minute 35, although the local’s attempts came down both wings and they also perfectly took advantage of the long balls lowered by Llorente. In the one of those sideline fouls served for David Lopez to persevere with the healthy tradition of scoring a direct free kick in Copa. It was the minute 41, but just before the broth brews in the changing room our team became conscious of the fact that it could sentence the qualifying round. In the 44, a good play between Iraola, Ion Vélez and Susaeta shot to centre which Llorente wasn’t been able to finish off after being held, and in the extra time David Lopez, coming from the back, shot high just in front of the goal area.
That sensation of being able to raise the advantage increased soon after the re-start, when Ersen Martin was booked with a direct red card. The effect, however, was counter-productive, because except for a couple of decent first quarter attempts by Koikili and Javi Martinez, Athletic perceived the rival’s weakness, so much so that they almost paid it dearly in the last stretch of the match.
The substitutions began, all of those denominated man for man, that have slowed down the boring pace (Joselito and Jesus Vázquez in for Akalé and Javi Fuego with Del Olmo coming in for David Lopez) and we can only emphasize the umpteenth centre by Iraola to which Llorente nearly reached in the minute 69.
Muñoz substituted Javi Martinez in the minute 74 and Alcaraz preferred to stay as he was by introducing Pablo Oliveira to replace Marco Rubén. On the contrary, he found himself with the rival’s misalignments and the nerves transmitted like a dog chasing its tail between field and stands to, without creating concrete danger, play with the threat of a goal that would change the tone of the qualifying round.
Happily, no goals were allowed and the advantage achieved is good in view of the second leg. To all said, it would be necessary to add the moral reinforcement, after so many consecutive defeats, before Saturday’s match, but all in good time.