Athletic Club 3 Hércules 0Athletic defeated Hércules by 3-0. Javi Martínez, with a header in…
Athletic Club 3 Hércules 0
Athletic defeated Hércules by 3-0. Javi Martínez, with a header in the 5th minute of play and Llorente and Muniain after the break, were the goalscorers. A clear and convincing triumph achieved by our team at the premier of this season’s Monday night football campaign. A deserving victory, the fruits of sheer superiority, leaving the difficulties that arose throughout the match behind and after a week in which many of our players were in need of some pampering. Athletic demonstrated, along the way, that it’s possible to win two consecutive matches as hosts, leaving Hércules scoreless at San Mamés, at least for one more season, and we are now in sixth place in the standings and next Sunday the team will play against the seventh-placed team, which will occur, at least for the time being, without any more injured players than we already had prior to this match. An enviable position that’s nothing but an incentive, or a catapult towards the battle for a place in the European competitions at the end of the season.
The date and time chosen and the prevailing cold made it look as if the stage was not the best for a football spectacle. However, the fans’ response and that of the team went hand in hand practically from the starting whistle blow. Another way to combat the freezing temperatures was to wave the scarves about, so much so that these items spent more time in the air than around the necks of the spectators and it’s just that right from the very 1st minute Athletic came onto the field in attack mode and Hércules, who haven’t won away from home since their assault at Camp Nou, could see it coming.
Now in minute 1 of the game Llorente was unable to finish off an offensive shot with his foot, giving his head a break for a change. And just in case someone was still curled up in their seats, the referee wanted to join the fun. The truth is that no matter what football brings i.e., good or bad times, this referee is unlucky with regards to Athletic, or Athletic is unlucky when it comes to him, and today’s duel was no exception. First of all, he didn’t see Fritzler’s hand that had come into contact with the ball whilst in the area, but our players were so immersed in attacking time after time that they had no time to complain.
Toquero passed the ball to the centre and Calatayud deflected it to corner, not without some difficulty. David López took the kick calmly and Javi Martínez scored with a spot on header, and while looking at the goalmouth, his fourth goal this season, a goalscoring streak that has rocketed over the last couple matches.
The referee booked Cortés, who had it in for Muniain throughout the whole match, which opened the door, along the way, to the referee’s second mistake of the evening, and perhaps even more serious than the first. Prior to this though, Athletic did not give up in their attempts to seal the clash early, although they had to wait until the second half to do this. Ball possession, mobility and a vertical position. In the 13th minute David López took a shot at goal from outside the area and Catalayud sent it to corner. Soon afterwards Muniain had a go from a distance but without much luck.
And now in the 16-minute mark Cortés brought Muniain down near the front part of the area, but the referee gave a yellow card to Fritzler instead. An absurdity that kept Hércules in the match when they could perfectly have been left with only nine players on the field. Then Muniain was at it again with an individual run, but Koikili’s crossed shot at goal just misses and Toquero couldn’t get there in time to push Koikil’s ball towards the back of the net, now it was the rival team’s turn, or perhaps our team had lowered their guard, because to play the entire match at this pace is impossible.
Hércules had their first, and almost only, goalscoring opportunity in the 37th minute when Iraizoz repelled Valdez’s chipped header, nonetheless the locals didn’t take long to react by way of a counter-attack move straight out of the book that ended in a shot taken by Llorente that sailed over the crossbar.
Orbaiz was already warming up in preparation for the second half, and actually replaced Gurpegi after the halftime break, this did not change Red/White formation. Hércules sent the same players back on, however moving Haedo Valdez closer to the centre. A quarter of an hour after sandwich time there was a doubt floating in the air, which could well be classified as being of cultural interest because of the numbers of times it has been mentioned when Athletic gets off to a good start: What will their attitude be at the start of the second half? Will they wait or jump in for the kill? The winner being the second option, and the avalanche did not take long. In the 50th minute Toquero took a shot at goal but his header struck the crossbar after having received a pass to the centre by Orbaiz. Shortly afterwards Valdez gave everyone a fright when he beat Iraizoz after having intercepted a centre pass kicked by Cortés, who should have been taking a shower without being substituted.
Following Hércules’s only goalscoring opportunity of the second half, besides a weak header that was well caught by Iraizoz in the 75th minute, the Red/White attitude was a sign of greater things to come. After the failed attempts at goal by Javi Martínez, Toquero and San José, at the 60 minute mark the second goal of the night came about. The fruit a great collective play. Orbaiz kicked the ball to the right wing, Toquero passed it down towards Iraola, who then did the one-two step with Toquero, who kicked a deep pass and then Iraola, from the goal line, placed the ball on a platter for Llorente to head the ball into the back of the net without any resistance. Half the job over with. Or more.
Esteban Vigo sent Rodríguez and Cristian, to replace Paz and Fritzler, who went to the changing room by himself to the desperation of a crowd with a historical memory. The effectiveness of the reserves could not be put to the test; since Muniain had stolen the ball and beaten Calatayud easily before these could even warm up.
De Cerio made his comeback to the now well cared for lawn at San Mamés, Portillo stepped in for Tiago Gomes and a little later Gabilondo stepped in for Muniain. Athletic were set on scoring their fourth goal, but today this wasn’t necessary. The squad responded well, the goals were evenly distributed, the game was built from ground level up and now it’s time to think about how we are going to maintain our consistency and desire to fight it out until the end in order to reach an attractive and obtainable objective.
The Athletic Club line up: Iraizoz; Iraola, San Jose, Ekiza, Koikili; David López, Gurpegi, Javi Martinez, Muniain; Toquero and Llorente. On the bench: Raúl; Ustaritz, De Marcos, Gabilondo, Susaeta, Orbaiz and Díaz de Cerio.
The Hércules CF line up: Calatayud; Cortés, A. Paz, Pamarot, Peña; Rufete, Fritzler, A. Aguilar, Tiago Gomes; Valdez and Trezeguet. On the bench: Unai Alba; Cristian, Portillo, Tote, Sendoa, Kiko and Rodríguez.
Referee: Undiano Mallenco.