Tromsø IL - Athletic Club
Play Off

Tromsø IL - Athletic Club

Tromsø IL
Tromsø IL
Athletic Club
Athletic Club
  • 61' Rushfeldt
  • J.Martínez (p.) 56'

LocationAlfheim Stadion , Tromso

Tromsø 1 – Athletic Club 1: Awating the Draw

Athletic Club have safely passed to the following round of the Europa League, specifically to…

Athletic Club

Athletic Club have safely passed to the following round of the Europa League, specifically to the group phase, which will begin with 48 contenders this coming 17 September and whose draw will take place in Monaco on Friday, 28 August, at 13:00. Our team has tied one-one with Tromsø, with goals by Javi Martinez, from a penalty, and later by Rushfeldt, both in the second half. In a very discreet match, the rojiblancos have affirmed the first leg result, not without suffering, and thereby close this atypical preseason with the first of its objectives fulfilled, more specifically having a very tight schedule, at least, until the end of the year.

The interval was reached goalless, with a first half that began with control and attempts by the locals, not excessive as far as amount, but definitely so as far as risk, since after a shot by Toquero saved by Ramovic in the minute 6, danger man Moldskred sped away, a constant also on Norwegian soil, however, his cross was excessive and Iraizoz was there to make the save.

Tromsø, with field advantage, in its full meaning, in its favour, knew exactly what they had to do; to summarize, concretely three things. First, place the balls behind the defence to take advantage of the speed and distancing capacity of its number 4. Secondly, long balls for a fireproof Rushfeldt and with the goal as his motto, as was seen in the second half, and the drop shot by the mentioned Moldskred or his second line. Along with all this, the third virtue of the Nordic team is the good positioning of its players to confront second plays. Knarvik excels in that aspect, he had a clear opportunity shortly after, but his shot went over the bar.

Athletic Club, in an uncomfortable scenario, with a sticky rival and, unlike in Bern, with the qualification at hand, avoided the midfield and though Llorente prevailed in many aerial duels, the ball possession average was fairly low; more or less as if it were already in-tune with the ‘this-neck-of-the-woods’ polar night. Two months of total darkness.

During this time we can observe the Aurora Borealis, a series of reflections that break their way through total darkness; a beautiful phenomenon that is the source of many comments. Let the metaphor serve to illustrate what occurred during the equator and end of the first half, when our team enjoyed options to score in the few moments they were able to triangulate, but Yeste and Javi Martinez shot high. A few minutes later, individual shots by both Llorente and Martinez from the sidelines ended up as wide headers, meanwhile in the minute 42, Susaeta went closest to scoring, but he too shot over the crossbar.

The situation was defined as sort of a controlled calm, but the umpteenth ball behind in the rear ended up in the area where Rushfeldt finished off with his heel and the ball, miraculously, went wide, licking the post. It was his second warning after a half turn in minute 31, saved by Iraizoz…. And on his third try he wouldn’t fail, though this time ‘third time was the charm’ and after having Athletic Club biting the dust enlisted in the rows of Rosenborg and Austria Vienna, with Tromsø it couldn’t be.

Yet, it was a premonition for the second half, in which the polar night had taken shape and Iraizoz was even booked with a yellow in an arduous exit outside the area. For those that in the middle of this cited phenomenon, that of the polar night, feel an inkling of depression or the like, and the aurora does not fill them, we’ve been told that there’s a sort of on-duty service in which the patient is administered a blue light and, generally, recovers. With a lack of game and a very dangerous 0-0 on the scoreboard, Athletic had its rays revitalized.

A combing by Llorente, administered by Toquero with a back pass by De Marcos, ended up with him swerving and his shot with the left was intercepted by a defender with his hand. Penalty, a double feint by Javi Martinez and goal scored despite the goalkeeper’s attempt to save. It was the minute 55 and the first step was taken.

However, the doses of revitalizing rays were apparently too little. Only six minutes later, Rushfeldt demonstrated his abilities with a header that left Iraizoz unable to react, sure of himself in the rest of aerial balls in view of the many corners and free kicks sent his way and without much work when it came to stopping complicated balls in play.

What we can designate as Athletic’s ‘half polar hour’ was almost on the verge of freezing with another header by Rushfeldt, in an even clearer one by Tore Reginiusen and in a tap by Yndestad (minute 83) in which Toquero’s interference was providential. However, the nervousness of the moment came at the hand of the 1-1 more than from its true danger, which is neither an obstacle nor a restriction, to describe this period as distressing.

Iturraspe’s ingress in front of the double pivot gave Athletic the ball more often, and Koikili coming in as inside-left and Gurpegi’s testimonial in injury time, only contributed to slow down the match. What did happen is that there was hardly any playing, much less in compromising areas and even in injury time the expulsion of goalkeeper Ramovic for overly pressing Yeste on the hour of his substitution brought about the consolidation of progression to the next round well away from Iraizoz. By the way, in a gesture that honours him, the goalkeeper immediately came by the Athletic changing rooms to apologize to Fran Yeste and wish our team luck.

In the end, from the polar night we haven’t changed from the opposite phenomenon characteristic in this end of the woods, the midnight sun, 24 hours of uninterrupted light, but at least light overtakes darkness, which isn’t much to say considering we are at the end of August, that the team still has a whole lot of improving to do and can and, most importantly, it must do so, but it can now persevere without having the guillotine hanging over its neck, so much so that in some sports newspaper supplement, which surely calls itself prestigious, they’ve already published, sold and someone has even read it after buying it, that we had already been eliminated from the new-born Europa League.

Fortunately, the European adventure does not begin, but rather continues and surely more important sporting encounters will come, no matter how much, for the better, the visual impact of the proximity to the Arctic Circle might have had. The team came to qualify and achieved it. There will come a time to properly take stock, but it doesn’t seem logical to do so, we insist, in the final stretch of a period in which 80% of the teams are dedicated purely and simply to the pre-season and not to the competition, though hopefully it will be like this for us every year.

If we look around us, a concept that Cruyff popularized in Barcelona, we get the impression that the rest of teams, without exception, devastate and dazzle in their summer roles, though it’s simply about overestimating what we possess or underestimating the rest and as a sample we have the cases of illustrious teams that have been eliminated such as Zénit or Aston Villa and others, as is our case, that have suffered in order to progress because a name is not enough.

And, without further delay, LaLiga begins on Sunday in San Mamés. Let’s hope no one is already cataloguing the beginning as a final.