Athletic Club beat Real Racing Club 1-2 in the last match of the campaign. David…
Athletic Club beat Real Racing Club 1-2 in the last match of the campaign. David López and Llorente were the goalscorers, whereas Kennedy scored on behalf of the Cantabrian team. Thanks to this victory, Athletic will compete in the 2011-2012 Uefa Europa League on 18 August. What’s more, the team and fans found a place far from San Mamés, to celebrate our qualifying for the competition.
At the beginning the Red-Whites made things too easy for the rival, later they demonstrated that they could be effective, and then when the team was at its best the opportunities to seal the match abounded and finally, what else but to suffer in their attempt to round off a good season with a direct ticket to Europe in hand. The team are already enjoying some well-deserved holidays, though quite a few players still have some international commitments.
It was by no means an easy task, first of all because our rival played seriously and resisted right until the end, even with one player down, which goes to show once more the equilibrium and competitiveness that can be found in the Premier division, and today everyone could see how a team with certain pedigree such as Deportivo went down to Second Division. Furthermore, our rivals for fifth and sixth spots did not give up and both Sevilla and Atlético de Madrid won their encounters.
To be honest the first minutes of the match were not promising, impreciseness, relatively easy balls for the local forwards and the first fright came about when Castillo unintentionally let the ball go past for Giovani, but Iraizoz intervened in one of his many successful one to one interventions of the evening. We were unable to respond, there were constant balls to the rear of the defence line and the support from the local fans made them get into the match more and more. And then even a defender like Henrique had a go starting from his own side of the pitch, however, Iraizoz was able to deflect the chip shot making it go over the crossbar.
Sevilla and Atlético had put their matches on the right track and the shadow of ending up in seventh spot loomed up until the 20th minute. But then Llorente was fouled and the penalty was converted into goal by David López with a move that has been rehearsed week after week at San Mamés behind closed doors. Racing took the blow, as well as the second that came about almost immediately when Llorente intercepted a deep pass from Orbaiz and beat Toño, who had come forward, easily. This was his eighteenth goal this League season and his personal best as well.
The most difficult part had been done and the score at other fields gave us courage to tackle the rest of the clash. Iraizoz kept on with his particular contribution with a two to one against Rosenberg coming off without much damage, then the ball did not get past Toño, which ruined part of Munian’s night.
On the contrary, the second half got underway with less anxiety, more control and the feeling that the clash could be sealed soon. This did not occur though as the effectiveness of the first half evaporated despite a greater number of goalscoring opportunities. Just like what happened against Levante, for example, Athletic had opportunities to score, but ended up looking at the clock, although perhaps the tight outcome made us celebrate the victory even more, if that’s possible. Once more nothing new in the last match of the season, Llorente, target for the umpteenth time, called for a penalty, but with no luck.
Then the very own Llorente could have finished off David López’s nice shot to the centre, but he came up against Toño besides not being spot on when trying to push the ball into the back of the net. A shot at goal by David López was repelled by a defender, and soon afterwards López again was in firing range but his volley was deflected by Toño.
A series of substitutions got underway with Kennedy who replaced Pinillos by popular demand and Francis was moved further back to the side, but only for a short while seeing that just before the 30-minute mark of the second half he was sent off. Llorente had yet another goalscoring opportunity, also a header, but once again he came up against the goalie and, a bit later, Marcelino had a go with Bolado who stepped in for Rosenberg, but Athletic was not up for leaving gaps. What’s more, the next opportunity was for Muniain, but yet again Toño was there and he was really inspired when it came to using his leg in the one to one.
Mallorca and Espanyol both did their best, but winning this match was Athletic’s responsibility. Ibai was sent in to cover for Toquero and following Francis’s red card, Cisma replaced Munitis. Lacen had their first reasonably noteworthy goalscoring opportunity of the second half, but his shot sailed over the crossbar, Kennedy had already advised that Gabilondo should replace Muniain, but Javi Martínez’s short clearance while close to the area allowed the ball to reach Kennedy whose shot from outside the area provoked a sufficient doses of uncertainty.
Racing, also as if they had a lot at stake, gave it their all in the dying minutes with Torrejón whose header missed. Gurpegi took over from David López and the damage control, brief but intense, paid off thus allowing a well deserved celebration of our twenty-fifth qualification for a European competition as a result of the League competition, one which was a fought out affair in which our team have been in the top 7 since the middle of the season and who in the end has reaped the rewards big time.