Athletic Club 1 – FC Barcelona 3Athletic Club lost to FC Barcelona by 1-3. Gabilondo…
Athletic Club 1 – FC Barcelona 3
Athletic Club lost to FC Barcelona by 1-3. Gabilondo scored on behalf of our team and Keita, Xavi and Busquets on behalf of the visitors in a well-deserved match won the Catalans, though marred because of Amorebieta’s sending off in the first half.
Where do I begin? By mentioning that right from the very start everything was set for a good football spectacle? Or by emphasizing that FC Barcelona are a magnificent team and deserved the three points more? Or by stating that it is very difficult in itself to overcome one of the best teams in the world even when playing with eleven players ? Or by verifying that the fans at San Mamés urged the team on more than ever and that they were able to appreciate the team’s efforts despite their defects?
A question and multiple answers to relate the experience. The best ambience with the emotional prologue conducted by Ángela, the daughter of the unforgettable Mr. Pentland, who was surrounded by her family and the warmth of the history that her father helped build at San Mamés. And now to be found on the waterlogged pitch was Barcelona that led up to expectation and who did not take long to slam their foot down on the accelerator. The match, in fact, was in danger throughout the first quarter of an hour, and even though some time later the match was to be lost, Athletic were able to put up with the crunch.
The truth is that the goal-scoring opportunities on behalf of the visitors were dazzling. For example a high shot by Adriano, a one to one between Keita and Iraizoz, well-saved by the goalkeeper and, especially, a shot from up close by Villa to the goalpost. All before the 15-minute mark. Nevertheless, Athletic were able to react despite not being able to maintain the initial pressure, and the cold sweat moved, little by little, to the rival area.
Igor Martínez, in the starting line up for the third consecutive time, called for a penalty when he was preparing to take a shot at goal, in the 24th minute Llorente fired away straight to Valdes’ hands from outside the area and, in the 32nd, a volley by Igor Martínez, after having received a header from Gurpegi, smashed into a defender and ended up being a corner kick. During this period only Pedro’s fierce shot at goal, very well cleared by Iraizoz by the way, could interrupt our team’s cool. Nevertheless, the best thing, a euphemism, was still to come.
Every match has a turning point and that of the fifth match day round was no exception. Have a guess it’s not a mammoth task! With still ten minutes left until the break, in the centre circle, Amorebieta outran a rival in his race for the ball, but the ball was a long one and in an attempt to recover it he went after the ball, at ground level, and after touching the ball, Iniesta who had also gone after the ball had to jump to avoid being brought to the ground.
The move, like all of them, allows for lots of explanations and opinions to expand on, and could even open debate at the round tables and conferences on football and literature that the Athletic Club Fundazioa Foundation intends to organize next October. You might say that the red card shown by Lahoz was excessive, not just for the tackle and the physical contact in itself, but because of the ambience of the encounter, which was disputed with nobility in attack most of the time and also because of the referee himself, who, for the sake of spectacle and as it says on his calling card, was trying to allow the play to flow on and was doing so literally by awarding very few fouls.
Nonetheless, life is not a bowl of cherries and, firstly, it seems that the full weight of the law and gravity has come down on Amorebieta, all of which without seven days having gone past since the tackling of Messi and because during the week it’ll be Galán’s turn, it looks as if the same people always end up paying for the drinks. And, in a second it was all over, and with all these issues to be queried, we have enough blank space for a good literary tale with a perfectly staged script, which is also a part of football, on behalf of the FC Barcelona players: hands to theirs heads, calls for a stretcher even before the referee did, and some others even left their area to go to the “scene of the crime” almost at the same time as the referee did.
A red card in their favour and superiority shown by the rival, something also foreseeable. It’s not the first time, and surely won’t be the last, but there’s a question floating in the air: Does a great team like FC Barcelona need such help? The answer, besides blowing in the wind, is in the mind of one.
Down but not out, without any substitutions or damage to anyone, the halftime break came about. Gurpegi was moved to the centre position and Orbaiz to the right, but during the interval the latter was replaced by Ocio and Igor Martínez, who felt dizzy but fortunately it was no more than that, was replaced by De Marcos. Gurpegi then returned to the midfield area and De Marcos was sent to back up Llorente.
For Barça, Maxwell stepped in for a limping Adriano. All bets, but especially the class of our rival, pointed towards a negative ending with more or less injury time until the final whistle blow, although the Catalan score-board showed no advantage during the first minutes, and what’s more one could see how Athletic were moving forward in the 50th minute when Javi Martínez’ shot at goal struck the goalpost after a hurly-burly in the area that San José also tried to finish off.
The initial equilibrium was being broken per the second by Barcelona with their repertoire of short exchanges, changes in direction to eliminate the pressure and rehearsed individual moves along with long-distance shots at goal, like Piqué’s one that was deflected by Iraizoz with difficulty after a bad bounce. A large showcase that provoked among other things the 0-1 score when Villa passed the ball to Keita whose soft touch beat Iraizoz who had come out of his area to go after the ball. Shortly afterwards, the very same goalkeeper made a great save of a ball that had been kicked by Pedro, Piqué had another go with a deep and deadly shot at goal and the centre carried on in the limelight after being shown a yellow card for confronting the referee without holding back, a practice accepted by the same ref on more than one occasion. Come on, as if the match was being broadcasted by some of its stars. There have always been classes on how to behave.
On the pitch Athletic would lose the ball all too quickly, therefore the opportunities in creating danger were sporadic. For example one hour into the game De Marcos made Valdes stretch, while Barça kept to their steamrolling plan: Villa took a shot at goal that went out in the 62nd minute, Iniesta’s hit the goalpost in the 64th and later Villa, on the half turn sent the ball to the domains of Iraizoz. An uphill situation, Iturraspe stepped in for Llorente, whose determination was acknowledged by the spectators, but the intention of providing more stability in the midfield area was just that as reality bites when in the 73rd minute Xavi’s shot from outside the area touched a defender and the ball made its way to the back of the net.
The team neither wanted nor deserved further punishment and everything indicated that the clash would end this way. Guardiola sent Bojan and Thiago in to replace Xavi and Iniesta with 10 minutes left to go, another open door for the sake of literary license. On the one hand it seems that, directly or indirectly, some of the players who have won the World Cup recently have achieved a special status, that of a protected specie in danger of extinction, as if, in spite of being players of flesh and blood, they never get carried away or use tricks. On the other hand, a new heavy-weight specie, ours, who despite not being able to do anything, is a befitting and prolific literary production concerning the wisdom of the San Mamés public, who historically have said goodbye to many rival players on their way to the showers with undisguised words of praise and applause. Without going any further and without boring the reader too much, regardless of likes and dislikes, this was done to Juanito, Laudrup, Cruyff, Michel, Raul, Stoichkov … along with the very own Iniesta and Villa who went to the locker room while being applauded, a situation that did not occur today, due to the suspicion of overacting or because the figure of the referee had taken shape in Iniesta.
Therefore, it’s not a bad idea to take our followers into account, also, when they choose to censure certain behaviour, just like what happened to Villa in the 87th minute after getting a red card booking for slapping Gurpegi in the face. The feeling of ten against ten was a big relief for our team whose spirits rose and in the 90th a Javi Martínez header, to the centre for Ocio who had made a comeback, was repelled by Valdés with the tip of his fingers, but the clearance was returned by De Marcos to the centre of the small goal area, where Gabilondo was waiting to score the goal with the right.
The hypothesis of a draw and the enormous Red-White heart kept San Mamés alight until injury time that is when Busquets finished off a counterblow move that resulted in the final score on the scoreboard being 1-3, which ratifies the merits of the current champion, although we’re certain that they did not like winning and having to hear the comments that are sometimes dedicated to their most fierce rival, like that of “that’s how Madrid win”.
On our behalf, we hope that next Saturday against the leaders Valencia and before the league break, to have less literary options and more points and, if we lose, so be it but without any shortcuts.
The Athletic Club line up: Iraizoz; Iraola, San José, Amorebieta, Aurtenetxe; Gurpegi, Javi Martínez, Orbaiz, Gabilondo; Igor Martínez and Llorente. On the bench: Raúl; David López, Iturraspe, De Marcos, Susaeta, Aitor Ocio and Muniain.
The FC Barcelona line up: Valdés; Alves, Puyol, Piqué Adriano; Xavi, Busquet, Keita; Pedro, Villa and Iniesta. On the bench: Pinto, Bojan, Jeffren, Mascherano, Milito, Maxwell and Thiago.
Referee: Mateu Lahoz, aided by Yuste and Cebrián.