Athletic Club 1 Málaga 1Athletic Club and Málaga reached a one all draw. Recio and…
Athletic Club 1 Málaga 1
Athletic Club and Málaga reached a one all draw. Recio and David López, penalty, scored the two goals. With just one match left, the team have qualified for the 2011-2012 edition of the UEFA Europa League but we still don’t know if this starts in July or August. In light of the last League match to be played in Santander, the Red-Whites only need to get the same score as Sevilla or Atlético de Madrid’s, or both if the case be, to end up in fifth or sixth spot.
Athletic Club have reached its objective, one that had not clearly been defined for so many seasons, which was nothing but to qualify for a European competition. If any supporter who is fairly knowledgeable about football was asked at the beginning of the season about which teams, besides Barcelona and Real Madrid, would share the booty in the second best Scottish League in the world (lit), a competition with little margin for error that has great players and big budgets, he or she would have said Valencia, Villarreal, Sevilla and/or Atlético de Madrid, and now our team are among these.
And as football leaves the door open to all kinds of opinions, starting from the premise that other teams as a general rule are better, some, or a lot, have the right to think that despite this being the twenty-fifth time that our team has qualified for Europe that it is so because of the mistakes of others rather than our team’s merit. While others think that we play, even historically speaking, in Europe one out of every two. The statistics are there for all to see for example the last time our team qualified for a continental championship after having won the League was in 1984 (1984-1985 European Cup) and the team has only qualified ten times more ever since, and only twice in the last four seasons and last season we weren’t far off either.
The road to success has not been easy, at least to date. Despite Llorente, whose almost unexpected header, had given Caballero a work out, however, Málaga played better at the beginning of the match and Batista, who else? was the star of the first couple of dangerous approaches, especially when he took a shot at goal with the right that just missed. The question as to why the Andalusians were having a good streak was easily and rapidly answered, but Athletic took control again as expected, though with little sharpness in the final couple of metres.
Athletic Club’s greatest opportunity came about when David López took a closed line shot at goal from the foul kick that Caballero was able to deflect with his foot whilst on the line, there were doubts as to whether the ball had gone over the line or not. Hard to tell. Castillo kept at it, but his left kick was repelled by Caballero.
Athletic were already in control of the situation, and what was happening at other fields did not seem to be overly important. But suddenly Málaga, who had a tough time when it came to leaving the midfield area, came up with a brilliant counterattack move in which Juanmi, who maybe was offside, dribbled past Iraizoz, however, Amorebieta was there to save the day and he cleared the ball from under the posts. Increasing doubt and fear, perhaps more in the stands than on the pitch, when Recio scored the first goal of the match in the 41st minute. It’s true that it could have been worse, if Iraizoz had not intercepted Batista’s harmful chip shot that could have resulted in the encounter being definitively over.
But the team knew that their chances to equalize the match would come in the second half, though not so soon. After some minutes of play, in the 54th to be precise, Llorente was the target and the perpetrator was Demichelis, who, apart from not complaining, was shown his second yellow card and had to leave the field leaving his team with one player less. David López assumed the responsibility of taking the penalty kick, but the ball struck the crossbar, however, Eliseu intercepted the rebound with his hand and the linesman had the gallantry to warn about the introduction of a new maximum penalty, converted into goal by David López.
In line with other match results things started to become clear, for the better as a result of Espanyol’s defeat and for the worse in light of Sevilla and Atlético de Madrid’s victories. At San Mames Athletic were not altogether sure, in part because of their own ineffectiveness, with the exception of Llorente’s shot at goal in the 77th minute that was repelled by Caballero, and in part because Málaga had sent Kris in to replace Maresca and because the rivals had maintained the same offensive presence at all times by way of Juanmi and Batista. The quantitative and qualitative risk had gone down in comparison with the first half, but our team, with no clear ideas, preferred to protect the rear. De Marcos stepped in for David López and later Gabilondo replaced Llorente, making Muniain move more towards the centre.
The tendency of maintaining the status quo did not go down well in the stands. The fact of having beaten last season’s record when it comes to points and of having reached our objective were not enough for them and the team were met with boos upon leaving the pitch after eleven months of sheer effort and the logical unequal fortune on the field. On the contrary, the rival coach, of a daring team in the final stretch of the championship, said that the duel against Barcelona would came in handy in order to organize a party to celebrate them not being relegated.
Meanwhile, our team will make their way to Santander with the aim of putting the icing on the cake, if possible, by ending up in fifth or sixth spot. Let’s see if our Athletic are able to beat a rival that will not make things easy for them before they take their holiday and a team who had already reached their objective last week.
The Athletic Club line up: Iraizoz; Iraola, Ekiza, Amorebieta, Castillo; David López, Javi Martínez, Orbaiz, Muniain; Llorente and Toquero. On the bench: Raúl, San José, Iturraspe, De Marcos, Gabilondo, Ibai Gómez and Urko Vera.
The Malaga CF line up: Willy Caballero; Gámez, Welligton, Demichelis, Eliseu; Recio, Sandro Silva, Apoño, Maresca; Batista and Juanmi. On the bench: Arnau, Fernando, Sebas Fernández, Rosario, Gaspar and Portillo.
Referee: Muñiz Fernández.