Athletic Club 3 – Sporting 0Athletic Club thrashed Sporting 3-0. David López, by means of…
Athletic Club 3 – Sporting 0
Athletic Club thrashed Sporting 3-0. David López, by means of a penalty, and Toquero were the two goalscorers of the first half whereas Llorente scored in the second. Four consecutive victories in the League and our boys are now in fifth spot after having played a match in which they deserved to win by an even bigger score. It’s a long road and the next two matches against Mallorca and Barcelona, will be played away from San Mamés, where the team stands firm. Urko Vera made his debut and Carlos Gurpegi won’t be able to play against Mallorca as result of being shown his fifth yellow card.
The team were loyal and stuck to the trend that could be seen at San Mamés for quite some time, that is, to go after the match from the initial whistle blow. As if there wasn’t enough fuel to feed the flames and with almost no time to take our seats, the referee disallowed a goal scored by Gurpegi as presumably Llorente committed a foul against a defender when jumping up for the ball, all of which happened prior to Toquero’s shot at goal that struck Cuéllar’s body. This was the only touchy subject. Nevertheless, set to defend what is indefensible and justify the unjustifiable, from the pulpit of the small screen some even managed to waste time, and tons of credibility, by saying that Gurpegi was offside! Or that his line shot at goal on the immaculate pitch was a dangerous move. And it’s just that TV is lucrative, for some more than others, but it also harms football a lot.
Having gotten over the first tantrum, Athletic kept their foot down on the accelerator. Pace, conviction and several resources made up the menu of today’s afternoon tea. And that’s just what we were doing when Gregory intercepted a pass to the centre from Toquero and was shown the first yellow card of the match, the most dubious out the two he was given, the second condemning him and his ingenuousness. Each corner kick or foul was a case of shirt tugging in a variety of ways, despite the referee’s determination to warn before sanctioning.
Something they kept on doing in the 8th minute when in the same play both Gurpegi and Llorente were victims, but not in the 14th when a similar incident occurred, however, this time to the detriment of the visiting team. The referee gave out warnings left and right, but Gregory did a repeat performance right in front of his face. His second yellow card and sending off, leading to David López, converting the penalty into goal, 1-0, and who without flapping his arms about settled the 11-metre line debate.
Preciado sent Eguren to cover the centre on a provisional basis and by the time he sent Botía in to replace De las Cuevas the score on the board was 2-0 a circumstance that our team has been spoiling us with at the start of each match. Between goals Sporting, who were also on a winning streak, had a go, especially in the set pieces, but right now Athletic has a high level of self-esteem and very versatile alternatives that choke many teams that are only aware of the typical hearsay, you know the one about the lofted balls for Llorente and company. And there are of course, but there’s more to it than that and this releases tension when it comes to opening an infinity of gaps. Down the right, the left, in pairs, or threes, up, down and not to mention their usual strength and fighting spirit, Athletic seems to be getting better when managing the match whilst outnumbering the rivals, not from the conformism that being in the lead provides, but with regards to controlling the match, which is quite different.
The fruit of a job well done materialized in the 27th minute following a great individual move by Muniain who dribbled to almost the goal line, and then passed what has always been called a deadly ball behind for Toquero, who scored his third goal in the League this year, to do the rest.
Athletic kept up with their fast pace and high level of play. The clearest option to score the third goal of this lively match was a Llorente header that struck the angle between the post and crossbar. Ironically, Sporting had an unexpected opportunity and also an undeserving one, a chance to get into the match, but in the 45th minute Iraizoz’s “private parts” made Barral’s shot at goal useless and, consequently, this allowed for a relaxed withdrawal to the changing rooms.
To get the second half up and running Barral and Eguren were left in the changing room and Bilic and André Castro took over from them. Athletic came onto the field with the same line up, but with the lesson well learnt: attack and then attack some more, to play how they know how to. This offensive disposition made, just before the 60-minute mark, the people in the crowded stands go ah! Llorente ‘s header missed, one more case of shirt-tugging; Muniain, in the 51st minute, was on the verge of making San Mamés go wild after conducting the ball all the way from his side of the pitch, leaving several players behind and following it up with a shot at goal, requiring Cuéllar’s extreme intervention, who injured himself in order to send the ball to corner; San José’s shot at goal went out; Toquero was too far ahead of the ball and the goalie swiftly and quickly intervened after an assist by Iraizoz; Orbaiz took a shot at goal from outside the area and Llorente could not make it in time to finish off Toquero’s seemingly clear-cut pass.
A ceasefire then took place. It’s logical. Susaeta stepped in for Toquero, with Muniain moving behind Llorente and Susaeta to the left wing. Anyway Athletic seemed like the only candidate to score and did so with another amazing play in the 73rd minute. Gurpegi passed the ball to Muniain, another pass between two defenders and then to Susaeta who was now in the area and whose line shot was directed to Llorente who scored the third goal of the afternoon.
Urko Vera made his debut when he replaced Muniain and Gurpegi was shown his fifth yellow card, resulting in him being replaced immediately by Iturraspe. Already in the final stretch, Sporting had two goalscoring opportunities to touch up the final score but both André Castro and Bilic’s shots went astray, but they were unable to tarnish our good performance in the last three matches, with no goals having been conceded. To sum up, good play, low score considering the merits of both teams, our fourth triumph in a row, with a similar outcome to that of the 1997/1998 season (15th – 18th match day rounds, both dates inclusive, and with a winning streak of seven matches without losing), and fifth in the league ladder, though there’s still lots to do and, we hope, to enjoy.
Starting eleven line up against Sporting: Iraizoz; Iraola, San José, Ekiza, Koikili; David López, Orbaiz, Gurpegi, Muniain; Toquero and Llorente. On the bench: Raúl, Ustaritz, Iturraspe, De Marcos, Gabilondo, Susaeta and Urko Vera.
Sporting’s line up: I. Cuéllar; Lora, Gregory, Iván Hernández, Canella; Rivera, Nacho Cases, Eguren; De las Cuevas, Barral and Diego Castro. On the bench: Juan Pablo, Botía, José Ángel, Carmelo, Bilic, Nacho Novo and André Castro. Ayoze, Sangoy and Luis Morán were not called up.
Referee: Teixeira Vitienes II.