Levante 1 Athletic Club 2Athletic Club defeated Levante by 1-2. At last, our much awaited…
Levante 1 Athletic Club 2
Athletic Club defeated Levante by 1-2. At last, our much awaited second victory away from home to date in the League. Hard to get, but it’s not bad to finish off the calendar year with 25 points. The win came about thanks to the two goals scored in strategic moves by Gabilondo and Javi Martínez, one each half. It wasn’t a spectacular match, but the Red-Whites were able to put the breaks on their determined rivals, more evident at the start of the second half and during the final injury time. What’s more, the team had to overcome Llorente’s premature withdrawal from the field because of injury.
The novelties in the starting eleven line up came hand in hand with the presence of Ocio, Ustaritz and Castillo in defence and the 1-4-1 format up front, with Orbaiz as pivot, a line of four made up by López, Martínez, Gurpegi and Gabilondo, with Llorente as the lone striker. The defenders, and the rest, were stressed out during the first minutes due the pressure applied by the locals, though without any palpable danger. Besides, the best way to shake this off is by scoring a goal and this was done in the 10th minute when Gabilondo masterfully took a foul shot. It was his second goal from a free kick so far this season, a situation that’s not very usual if we consider that this statistic is only shared with, at the time of writing these words, by no other than Ronaldo.
Athletic calmed down and Levante couldn’t find the way to hurt us. Nevertheless, things started to go wrong for one reason or another. First of all, Llorente who was injured in the 18th minute and had to be replaced by Toquero. Later, in the 21st minute, during a move which seemed insignificant, Iraizoz was not spot on when stepping out of his area and Caicedo stuck his toe cap in to score the encounter’s equalizing goal. The minutes that followed were relatively calm, but in the 32nd minute Xisco Nadal finished off with a header that was cleared and two minutes later Juanlu wasted what was a good opportunity when he took a shot at goal with a weak left kick.
Caparrós opted for a change in the 4-4-2 format with David López as the second forward, Gurpegi on the right wing and with Orbaiz and Martínez side by side.
Halftime came without any further surprises, although the first couple of minutes of the second half were the most stressful. First in the 47th minute when a hand, apparently while on the area line, meant a booking for Ocio and the dangerous foul kicked by Rubén that was well caught by Iraizoz. Caicedo, danger personified at Levante, took a shot at goal with a header in the 50th minute but missed, just like he did just prior to the final whistle being blown. Soon afterwards, minute 54, Susaeta stepped in for David López and in the 56th minute Ocio cleared a rival header from under the posts.
It seemed that our team got somewhat going with the rain and even had an opportunity to boot, like Susaeta’s attempt at a chip shot that was all too predictable and ruined by Reina.
Levante substituted a player with the same name as his substitute in the 62nd minute, Xisco Muñoz in for Xisco Nadal and Athletic when they could move the ball below went on to control the encounter. Nonetheless, the lack of goalscoring accuracy gave Levante the opportunity of creating danger in counterattack, just like in the 71st minute when Iraizoz crashed into a team-mate and the ball went loose and had to be cleared close to the goalmouth by Castillo. As if this weren’t enough, Rubén’s corner kick struck the crossbar.
The match looked as if it were out of control, with rapid exchanges from one area to the other. In one of these exchanges, in the 73rd minute, Javi Martínez was the victim of a foul in the vertex of the area and Gabilondo’s mild foul shot was finished off by Javi Martínez. Closer each time to our objective, but it wasn’t going to be easy on a field where, Real Madrid could not score and Atlético de Madrid returned home empty-handed.
Stuani was ready to take Rubén’s spot, with the local’s 4-4-2 format becoming clearer; however, the next goalscoring opportunity belonged to Susaeta in the 74th minute, with a line shot that was cleared by Reina.
The local coach had used up all his substitutions when he sent Sergio in to replace Pallardó and the newcomer was invalidated for being offside in the 82nd minute. With only a quarter of an hour until the 90-minute mark Iturraspe stepped in for Orbaiz and even had enough time to get a booking, because each ball was a fight with no quarter given with a driving blue-maroon team and Athletic Club who didn’t want to miss their opportunity of being in the top spots and, on the way, put an end to their travelling woes.
However, we still had to suffer, because since the fourth ref signalled 5 minute injury time with his board we could see how Juanfran took a shot at goal with a header that went over the crossbar, how Susaeta had another go at Reina from below and, especially, how Caicedo, in the 94th minute, tried his luck again with a header and, the most important thing, aim.
Despite everything, and while the regulations go unchanged and strategic move goals are not prohibited, when the game doesn’t go as planned a team must make the most of their virtues and today our team did just that skilfully. More than skill is needed for the switch from League to Copa to be positive seeing that on Tuesday it’s our turn to pay a visit to a rival, that everyone in the world knows, is going through a profound crisis in play and results (ironic). Well just that…