Athletic Club - FC Barcelona
Matchday 11

Athletic Club - FC Barcelona

Athletic Club
Athletic Club
FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona
  • 62' Toquero
  • Dani Alves 53'

LocationSan Mamés , Bilbo

Athletic Club 1 Barcelona 1: A good point

Athletic Club reached a 1-1 draw against FC Barcelona. Alves and Toquero were the goal-scorers,…

Athletic Club

Athletic Club reached a 1-1 draw against FC Barcelona. Alves and Toquero were the goal-scorers, both during the second half. A good harvest against the team who are considered to be the best in the world, and it is supposed also when they don’t win, and a good reward for the all the work done our team.

The visitors were clearly in command during the first half hour of the match, but prior to the interval things were already becoming more even, an aspect which seemed to be maintained at the start of the second half until the inertia of such talented players led to the 0-1, the work of Alves. This was the most difficult moment, in which Athletic had to become daring in order to react, and a quarter of an hour later Toquero scored the equalizer. From then on until the end the defence was structured and self-sacrificing against a Barcelona, in case anyone has forgotten, is plagued with international players who play for their respective states or countries and who still have not lost in the League. An effort to notch up point number 17, to be ratified in Almería before the attempt to certify the European classification. A draw that deserves to be celebrated, even though it’s not a very usual, or perhaps for this very reason.

The habitual 4-4-2 format of our team had another characteristic because of Susaeta’s presence as the second striker, which at times turned the format into a 4-5-1 or with a line of five behind when the rival had possession of the ball and with Javi Martinez sticking close to the centres. Whatever it was and despite the brave attempts to block Barcelona’s path, at the beginning Guardiola’s men were enough to put the wind up anyone, nothing new or which could be qualified as surprising at any rate, with combinations as spot on as they were quick and vertical.

We should point out that the second quarter of an hour got underway with a one to one between Messi and Iraizoz which the goalie won, a header by Keita just missed and only seventy seconds later, Messi’s poisoned dagger to the centre which Amorebieta was able to clear in the goal area, a shot at goal by Pedro went high in the 24th minute and a pass by Messi in the 28th which Xabi had sent over the crossbar.

The goal, that’s how things were, was a matter of time and it wasn’t as though Athletic Club were doing that badly, but resistance is not always a synonym of winning and the Red-Whites needed more than just possession and clear ideas to sow the seeds of doubt among the rival players. Lines tight, shortly afterwards Orbaiz was sent more to the right and Gurpegi to the centre, provisions for those in front, especially for the intermediaries of Keita and Xavi, who were gradually becoming more sporadic and Athletic were aware of this, and then just a bit more of an effort, knowing that by not letting the other side score meant that nothing is impossible.

What’s more, as strategy equals or dims other more palpable differences with the ball in motion, our team had an excellent goal-scoring opportunity to get ahead on the scoreboard. It was during the first half’s injury time, but Javi Martínez, almost an expert with the still ball, had already done the most difficult part, taking a shot at goal with his head from a centre pass by Yeste with no goalie in sight but his header went astray.

To be honest reaching the goal area once with clarity and actually scoring seemed to be a question of luck, but against rivals like FC Barcelona making the most out of the few opportunities given is vital and that’s what Athletic did though they had to wait a little longer.

In the upcoming second half there were no changes made to either the players or the style of play. The start was not as spirited and unstoppable as it had been in the first half, however, it wasn’t really necessary against rivals like these. The script is always the same, the weaker team believes they have everything under control because of the mere fact of not being literally trampled on by way of goal-scoring opportunities, but a move that comes out of nowhere can complicate everything. A favourable throw-in from the right wing ended up finding the back of the net, this goal was scored by Alves in minute 53 of the game after having received a pass from Xavi. The hugs among the blue-maroon players after the goal had been scored gave the sensation of, to cut a long story short, wanting to say, “we’ve already scored a goal and we’ve already got the three points”.

A bleak panorama and even more so considering the recent precedents against the culés. Nevertheless, fortunately, our team knows how to put up with the blows and today was no exception. They have courage, character, the ability to improve and perhaps also an improved ability when reading matches. Soon after having a goal scored against them Toquero was sent in to replace Orbaiz and the 4-4-2 format was already clearer, maybe because it’s more familiar. All of a sudden Barcelona had lost the monopoly of the ball, perhaps partly due to the already mentioned sensation of believing they had already won the match and partly due to the work done by Athletic, now with nothing to lose.

In the 67th minute Llorente combed a long pass by Iraizoz and Toquero planted himself in front of Valdés whom he beat with a spot on shot at goal with the inner part of his right boot. Barcelona, who had not been comfortable on the field for some time, and Athletic opted for a short break to reorganize their lines. Gabilondo stepped in for Yeste, Bojan for Messi and De Marcos for Llorente.

The visitors wanted, but no longer could and the hosts were looking more at the clock than at the gaps that were left by a team that had advanced forward too much. On the other hand, Barça were able to create a couple of goal-scoring opportunities, but they were no longer the result of a game that allows for a constant siege. Piqué had finished off with a header from a corner kick and Xavi took a shot at goal from way back in minute 83 of the game, just before being replaced by Henry, who was in all the news for the use of his hand, which led to goal and gave France a ticket to the World Cup, and not for his performance yesterday.

When it comes to analysing someone will play down the importance of the one point and will say that the rival had many players on the sideline or that the tactics employed by our team were extremely defensive. The rival coach did not see it like this, he declared before and after the encounter that “we’re not going to cry about those who are not here”, not in vain out of starting eleven, except for Pedro, who was an under-21 national player, the rest of the players already know what it’s like to be called up by their states or countries. As if this was not enough, on the bench were players such as Puyol, Henry and Bojan waiting for their turn.

With regards to what could be expected from the rival, Pep Guardiola may still remember the duel corresponding to the third match day round of the 93-94 season, played at San Mamés between both teams with Jupp Heynckes as coach of the locals. Comparing the commitment in defence of that match, which ended in a 0-0 draw, with this match is not a bad idea.

Above all the possible and plausible interpretations, all equally respectable, the truth is that Athletic has tallied up its third consecutive League match without a loss and with only one goal having been scored against them in all of these matches. On with the winning streak!.