Athletic Club has defeated Atlético Madrid by 1-0. Javi Martinez scored the goal with a…
Athletic Club has defeated Atlético Madrid by 1-0. Javi Martinez scored the goal with a header in the first half, while in the second half the visitor’s attempts to equalize have been unproductive. Three golden points that mean the end of the losing streak in Liga, and which allow us to be more calm in the qualification in order to confront, with greater confidence, the three challenging commitments prior to the next Liga break. What’s been worse have been the injuries, that have yet to be determined, of Toquero and Susaeta, which reveals in all its crudity the physical demands of having to play three competitions, something that is already known, but that should serve to contextualize the victories and the defeats when there is still a lot of season ahead, we hope with identical series of matches.
It’s been a demanding, two-sided match, as we’ve said so many times, but on this occasion the good performance in the first half helped to get around the negative in the second, mainly because, in spite of everything, the team has once again been able to keep its goal at nil, also synonymous with not allowing any free-kick goal today.
To confront the match there have been six starting players that did not come out that way against Rayo Vallecano in the Copa meet (Iraizoz, Toquero, Ustaritz, Susaeta, Javi Martinez and De Marcos). San Mamés received the contenders with its best attire after a week of ‘get rid of those unwanted visitors’ and a lot of small talk on the matter. Neither team began with authority, but the tendencies were clear: local pressure and verticality, unexpected quality on the part of the visitor.
Without dangerous occasions, Atlético only needed a centre to the area which Iraizoz calculated badly and Maxi, whom we can say just happened to go by, shot to the post and after the following scuffle Amorebieta headed the ball out from under the crossbar. That’s not what was foreseen and the rojiblanca machine began to work. Meanwhile a free-kick from the right by Orbaiz has been headed in with the same persistence and power by Javi Martinez to put the 1-0 on the scoreboard. Euphoria in the stands and Atlético lost, not in vain is their Liga takeoff still grounded, which indicates that it’s not easy for anyone to navigate the choppy waters of the Liga. A minute later a perfect pass inside from Llorente to De Marcos and Asenjo avoids the second goal by Athletic. Sixty seconds later, another attempt by De Marcos, though he didn’t shoot with the left as he would have wanted.
The match had pace, with pressure by Orbaiz slightly more advanced than yesterday’s omnipresent and fresh Javi Martinez, with few clear transitions by Atlético because they had trouble moving the ball. That’s why, on numerous occasions, the possession of each ball was a question of survival and Athletic showed more determination in the majority, perhaps that which the referee lacked when it came time to showing some other cards. The minutes passed far from our own area, but without occasions in the visitors.
Even so, our team enjoyed opportunities to put the match on track. The clearest came in the minute 34 from a ball behind the defence which served for Toquero to face off S. Asenjo and, by the way, to be knocked down by the goalie in spite of the efforts by the forward to avoid him. Ramirez Domínguez did not indicate anything and the wise specialists on the matter will be able to compare, not to go back to the Palaeolithic, today’s presumed penalty with the penalty Gurpegi was booked with last season at the Lluis Companys and which served for Espanyol to win 1-0 and almost mathematically assure their salvation.
Toquero was injured in that play and in the minute 40 he was replaced by Gabilondo. As a result of the change, De Marcos was positioned to play behind and level with Llorente, depending on demand. Three minutes later a fast counterattack and his own indecision misplaced Asenjo, but the player from Guardia perhaps rushed his shot, later parried by the goalie.
Opposing and in spite of their peculiar desert crossing, in the first half Atlético Madrid left a preview of what to expect on re-start. From out of the blue Forlán invented an occasion in the 44, aborted by the intervention of Ustaritz before Kun, and Simao tested Iraizoz from outside the area in extra time.
With no new substitutions, the scenario did vary, especially due to a detail that sometimes curiously goes unnoticed, the fact that also in football one’s own performance is often conditioned by that of the opponent, and Atlético came back with a more offensive spirit, with more clarity in combinations and, therefore, more ease in reaching the goal without exclusively resorting to deep shots to Kun. During the first quarter hour there was only one team on the field, and unfortunately it was not Athletic.
Facilitating what’s just been mentioned has been the fact that in just three minutes, from 46 to 48, Maxi enjoyed a couple of attempts, both tight, but wide. Jurado replaced him on the hour of play and in the 61 of match a free-kick by Gabilondo cleared in the heart of the area made Asenjo intervene. This play has been Athletic’s almost only clear option to score in the whole second half. Immediately afterwards Simao shot on goal and Iraizoz made the save and Forlán tried his luck without much result from outside the area.
Shortly after, Iñigo Perez has been able to know first-hand what it means to debut in San Mamés when he substituted Orbaiz and David Lopez replaced an injured Susaeta. There was still over a quarter hour left to the end, a long time mostly because of the physical effort rendered thus far. Atlético Madrid was going through something similar, they no longer had that energy of the first minutes of the second half, but it did have its two star offensive players, Forlán and Kun, Kun and Forlán, who don’t need a special scenario to sow doubt among rival defenders. Neither of them has done what forecasters predicted: the Uruguayan to score his umpteenth goal against us and the Argentinean to break his achievement drought at our expense.
Ustaritz and Amorebieta have prevailed in most of the disputes, but that hasn’t been enough to prevent Forlán from connecting an amazing shot to the base of the post, shortly after the ball fell as if it had gone up in smoke in midair. With no time to sulk, Kun didn’t want to be less and almost blows up the crossbar, also from outside the area. To close the cycle and, at the same time, exhaust the repertoire of attempts to draw, in the 77 another great shot by Forlán was parried to corner by Iraizoz.
Athletic Club has known how to manage the advantage, except for one or another slight scare with the hope that there are many more matches without allowing goals. The next trial doesn’t give time to savour the three points that install the team in the warm area of the table and it’s just that this Thursday the flavour will be European… even if we’re off to Africa.