Athletic Club has defeated Xerez by 0-1. The only goal was an own goal by…
Athletic Club has defeated Xerez by 0-1. The only goal was an own goal by David Prieto. Six points in two matches with no goals allowed, s good haul for when the results are not those wished for, especially if we consider that last season it took the team a mere ten days in do so.
Meanwhile, the calendar does not give truce and on Thursday the debut of the Europa League Group Phase begins in San Mamés. An appointment that is better prepared with a victory in the pouch after some good team work in a difficult ground due to the clean game of the rival and the emotional factors that accompanied the match.
Our team tried to take control of the game in the first minutes, but as soon as Xerez stretched the initiative has been local with a serious warning by Alex who, after touching Amorebieta, Iraizoz deflected with good reflexes. Also the first oomph came to an end and in the heat of the scuffle the referee indicated a penalty on Abel for a hand ball after Toquero finished off with a header. Javi Martinez wasn’t able to continue his good run from eleven meters and Renan turned away his shot. Immediately afterwards the occasion has been for Momo, but his shot with the left has gone wide.
Little by little Athletic Club recovered their state of mind and the match lost some intensity. In that context, at the half hour an attack down the right was culminated by Susaeta, who cantered hard and low. He couldn’t find any strikers because David Prieto, what a cross this player has to bear against our team, introduced the ball in his own goal; one hand washes the other. With the 0-1, in the following play Llorente over-crossed with his left before Renan, although Xerez has tightened its males and created a couple of occasions, the first from ex-rojiblanco Bermejo in the 40th when he forced a header to the dominions of Iraizoz, and in the second Francis was just off target, and he limited himself to pressuring with whatever he could, a ball brushed by Víctor Sanchez.
It appeared that both teams were going to retire to the break as thus, when in the final stretch of the first half Llorente headed a cross from Toquero, who had exchanged positions several times from his initial midfield position with Oscar de Marcos, but the ball crashed with the crossbar, it took height and … it came back down and once again hit the bar with De Marcos ready to push it into goal.
Cuco Ziganda tried to improve the scenery after the interval by giving entrance to Viqueira who replaced Víctor Sanchez. The objective was one, as was verified on re-star of play, to try to take more advantage of strategy given the difficulty of surprising Athletic Club in set plays. Upon start-up, Momo made Gorka work, well positioned, and Susaeta to Renan, although like at the beginning of the match, the first quarter hour has been mostly local thrust and of tackling unrewarding tasks. As the minutes passed, the Gaditan team started losing momentum while Athletic, with Muniain already on the field in for De Marcos and later Gurpegi in for Toquero and with Martinez a bit more advanced, has materialized its better minutes with constant recoveries and good opportunities to score, like one by Llorente, saved by Renan, and another almost simultaneous by Martinez, removed from under the woods by a defender. Later, Susaeta once again gave ‘work’ to Renan, who ruined another distant shot by the rojiblanco with the left, in the 70 and then with the right in the 74.
With the match still open, Ziganda tried to give more depth to his team by introducing Antoñito in for Abel, who had a yellow, but only the involuntary incapacity to decide the match on the part of Athletic has rescued the azulones for the final attack already under a sheet of water, what we least expected in these latitudes. Almost by inertia or impelled, who knows, because of a lightning strike of the summer storm, Xerez cornered Athletic and we were in a critical situation around the minute 80 after a good shot by Viqueira which our goalie fortunately parried to corner. Later, Momo shot high, and although Athletic was coming back, in as much as the local’s relentless pursuit allowed, control of the game and the last minutes, with Gabilondo in the place of Susaeta, especially as a result of Mendoza’s send off for a hard foul on Muniain, have been all the calm that a minimum advantage allows at any field.
In the end a victory and we have to think ahead to the upcoming challenges, not less attractive in fact, considering that each match is totally different from the previous. Meanwhile, on Monday someone will surely be talking Champions, unfortunately it’s the pendulum principle we are in, and we must continue down the same path of reliability and hard work, not only because there are still 36 matchdays left and we can improve in all aspects, but because to add each point seems to be an enormous task for everyone, or almost everyone.