Athletic Club 0 Villarreal 1Villarreal CF beat Athletic Club by 0-1. Marco Ruben scored the…
Athletic Club 0 Villarreal 1
Villarreal CF beat Athletic Club by 0-1. Marco Ruben scored the only goal of the match in the second half. This time our team couldn’t make the most of the huge effort made at San Mamés and, without playing worse than the rival whose offensive efficiency and good defensive discipline all result in things being tight in the league ladder with only nine matches left to achieve a place among the top seven, a task that if anyone is in doubt, is still difficult to attain.
The first goal-scoring opportunity of the match came about in the 3rd minute, with a foul shot that was finished off by Llorente with a header that missed, the first premonitory snapshot of the match. A good pass to the centre, the ball high and Villarreal’s crystal clear intention, with long passes that made our forwards time and time again end up in an offside position.
Apart from these intentions, the encounter was even, although the goal-scoring opportunities were conspicuous by their absence during the first half, or perhaps it was the good work in the defence department by both sides that placed the referee in centre stage. Except for a couple of dangerous passes to the centre by Muniain and David López, nothing, however, our rivals weren’t able to demonstrate their goal-scoring prowess either. Unfortunately though they didn’t need to do much to win.
Up until the interval the two squads took the initiative in turns. Athletic wanted to invade the rival area down both wings but not hastily though and what’s more, surprised the rival by not kicking high passes as they tried to play on ground level, despite the incomprehensiveness of the fans in the stands at times, who are so receptive when the team that risks is the other. As expected but not so much in the end, Villarreal were true to their style in trying to play time and time again between the lines with good ball control, but it is undeniable that they had strengthened their midfield section in the starting eleven line up and took a lot of measures when it came to defending.
As already mentioned, the referee’s decisions prevailed more than the exchange of balls when it came to getting the spectators off their seats. It can’t be said, to be absolutely honest, that his labour had an influence over the final score, but this doesn’t mean that he did a good job. A journalist asked the visiting coach about the 22 fouls called in Villarreal’s favour and the 5 against, that is to say, in Athletic Club’s favour. An obvious imbalance, despite the visiting coach attributing their victory to their game based on ball possession.
Anyone who saw the match would admit that some more fouls could have been added to the Red-White collection, but Llorente was also held back from time to time, at times in a blatant manner, regardless of the fact that the forward is still high on the offenders’ list.
In the second half, on the contrary, the goal-scoring opportunities and alternatives were better, or at least more noticeable. First with Muniain who took a shot at goal that missed in the 52nd minute, then Cazorla responded in a similar fashion and unfortunately Villarreal brought home the bacon in their first clear shot at goal. Marcos Ruben finished off Valero’s pass to the centre with a header that found the back of the net in the 57th minute.
Athletic tried to react promptly and Llorente finished off David López’s kick to the area but the shot just missed. The equalizer did not come about and the scenario changed radically. First of all because Villarreal had more space to inflict harm and secondly because Athletic opted for the all or nothing approach but found themselves up against a rival that kept to their lines far from their goalmouth. Then Iraizoz had to do his best to deflect Rossi’s volley, the fruits of their better mobility and reach.
As a sign that an indiscriminate change was needed Urko Vera stepped in for David López in the 61st. And it’s true that our team kept applying the pressure and had accumulated a lot of goal-scoring options, provided that they were not offside. Javi Martínez took a shot at goal with a header that just went out and Muniain’s shot at goal went straight to Diego López’s gloves. But the team hung in there and at least the historical tradition that situates us as candidates in conceding a goal in situations like these did not occur.
Then Villarreal could have sealed the match, but Iraizoz saved the day following Marco Ruben’s run by deflecting Cazorla’s finishing shot to corner. From that moment on the initiative totally belonged to the Red-Whites, but also the rush and lack of aim. Susaeta replaced De Marcos in the 67th and later Gabilondo took over from Koikili on the left flank.
Our players tried everything right until the very end and even created quite clear goal-scoring opportunities, like the one to one between Susaeta and Diego López that was foiled by the latter; or the pass by Iraola that was finished off by Urko Vera but foiled this time by a defender; or the clearest one had by Llorente, whose great flying header was deflected to corner by the rival goalie or Martínez’s volley that went straight to López’s realm.
On the contrary, Garrido’s substitutions were made with the aim of defending what they had already achieved. Cani in for Cazorla, Kiko for Valero going on to play with three centres and last but not least Wakaso stepped in for Rossi. Athletic didn’t care about the risks, but were bothered by the fact that were unable to get at least one point, seeing the state of the match, and which would have been an interesting outcome. Nevertheless, and unfortunately, Villarreal knew how to manage our squad’s anxiety to close any debate on Athletic’s objectives in the League. And to reach these we must improve at home urgently, because the points always have to be won in the next match, and we must also work on improving our performance away from home and because, whether you like it or not, Almería, in April, is the next stop of this demanding and passionate final sprint.