Athletic Club has met up with a home victory again after defeating Real Zaragoza by…
Athletic Club has met up with a home victory again after defeating Real Zaragoza by 2-1 in spite of playing fifty minutes, more than half of the match, with one player less. Susaeta and Toquero scored the rojiblanco goals and Ponzio, from a penalty, the visitor’s. Third time’s a charm and, finally, one of the teams that have consecutively come to San Mamés occupying precarious positions on the table is not taking the spoils. We close the Liga this year with 22 points, near European positions and with the full intent of closing off 2011 securing a ranking in the Copa Round of 16.
On the already wintry day, which offered a timid truce so that our former player and coach, who symbolizes so much to so many, Rafa Iriondo could receive a warm tribute in San Mamés, the night closed off with a just and suffered victory. Once again only one of both contenders has believed, with its virtues and defects, in the possibility of achieving a victory and additionally has done so overcoming more difficulties than usual which, in time, could be described as collateral.
We all know that debuting in San Mamés is a trial by fire and for a referee it wasn’t going to be less. Quite honestly, we don’t believe that, after reviewing the DVD from the match, the referee can conclude that it was the debut he dreamed about. What’s bad is that day which seemed to go from bad to worse excessively conditioned Athletic’s soccer proposal. Besides, if a possible appeal before the Competition Committee and later acceptance of the same don’t remedy it, Javi Martinez will not be able to start 2012 playing in the Liga.
Until the midfield has not had to go to the showers ahead of schedule, the match took a way closer to calmness than to suffering, with an Athletic that moved the ball low (the San Mamés turf again just fine), played vertically and first looked for, and later found, holes by which to dismantle the team that is currently at the bottom of the table. By the minute 7 the marker already indicated a reassuring 1-0 after Susaeta noticed a pass attempt by Juárez from midfield and haggling Roberto to score in an empty goalmouth after two previous attempts, in the minutes 3 and 5, in which his good positioning between the lines allowed him to receive and face the goalie, who nevertheless had deflected both attempts to inaugurate the scoreboard.
In defence of the newcomer, just indicate that he guessed correctly when he disallowed the authority of one of his assistants who had raised the flag when Susaeta received, in the belief that the pass was from a rojiblanco teammate. Things didn’t change, Athletic was still in control and even Amorebieta, who was debuting as captain, could have scored with a header, but his shot on goal after bouncing off Toquero and going wide, was baptized as a corner.
The peaceful night changed unexpectedly. Lafita benefitted from a couple of rebounds, he penetrated the area and when he was ready to shoot towards Iraizoz, Javi Martinez tried to reach for the ball with his long leg and was able to send it off to corner. What better way to go down in history in his debut at La Catedral than with such a significant decision. Penalty and if it was a penalty, it was at least consistent, the red card was his.
Ponzio scored the equalizer from eleven meters and the hill suddenly became steeper; seventy minutes to go and one player less. Iturraspe provisionally covered the hole, Iñigo Perez pulled back, but Athletic could find neither rate, nor pause to reorganize, nor criteria to do damage again. At the same time, or almost, the referee gave the impression that he would try to compensate. He lowered the level of demands to show/see yellow cards and Lanzaro, Ponzio and Antonio Tomás opened the way. Under the criterion used until that moment Ponzio and Antonio Tomás gained merits to see the second yellow. On the contrary, the victim has been Lanzaro after a hand in Athletic’s field, although there was still a lot of time left to be able to play on an equal basis.
Between cards and other trifles, Athletic didn’t change the sense of the game not in its defensive work and much less at the time of striking its rival. Bielsa introduced San Jose to replace Iñigo Perez to try to bring out the ball and advance Iturraspe. Until the break, with one or another scheme the production has been limited to a high shot by Susaeta from a free-kick in extra time. Meanwhile, Zaragoza gave a wink to destiny without taking risks.
With the extra task of the ‘young’ players to do their thing and cover the hole left by their teammate, the initial team showed off an insulting average age of just over 23 years of age, and after a wide shot by Lafita in a fast counterattack, our team went on to take control of the game. On the other hand Zaragoza had a plan, as their manager recognized in the press conference, and it was no other than to let the clash mature, something that was staged around the hour of play after vain attempts by Toquero, wide with headers, and better when shooting a line shot at the hands of Roberto. Athletic was far from arriving with danger to Roberto’s territory.
At the same time the referee was making all but friends in the stands, from the simplest decisions to the most controversial plays, he created a breeding ground that was mixed with the arrival of the fan’s conscience, a sort of ‘that’s enough of draws and true losses versus moral victories’, which once again activated the team in a phase marked by ball possession and attempts, but also by the few real options to score.
And in the heat of the catharsis, Lanzaro was booked with a second yellow after cutting off a ball with his hand in Athletic Club’s field; ten against ten and twenty minutes to go. If in the previous situation Zaragoza caused that cross bets be made as to the minute of Robert’s yellow card, the losses of time multiplied. In addition, Aguirre brought in Abraham on the left wing and move Paredes to the centre.
Things would also have changed, for the better in this case, to grant a pretty goal to De Marcos in the minute 72, but although it seemed he was in a correct position, the suffering was still present. Zuculini replaced another cautioned player, Antonio Tomás, while Herrera joined the club and Ibai substituted Susaeta in the 78th.
De Marcos, who continued fighting despite Paredes’ thrust in the first half, carried out a good play with a reverse and shot on goal, but an opponent was able to send the ball to corner, after whose serve Muniain was unable to finish off by very little. We were already in the minute 81.
Strengths were even, but the pressure felt mainly greater for Athletic Club, created mostly by the sensation of the wear down produced when trying to assimilate another home loss. Fortunately, the impossible became a reality, and in addition it came by way of searching and finding spaces, teamwork and mostly believing in what was being done. In the 86th Ibai sent a long pass to De Marcos, who sent a strong line shot into the heart of the area which Toquero pushed into the net. And it was over.
This time there no unnecessary fouls in the area and, with David Lopez already in the place of Toquero, the majority of minutes were spent in the rival’s field and the opportunities have also been rojiblancas, with an attempt by Muniain and a half-turn by Ibai, though higher than he would have wished.
Third time lucky and the joy was shared both on the field and in the stands with our sights team already in Wednesday’s meet, at 22:00h in San Mamés, with the only objective of delivering on the effort of Oviedo to begin 2012 playing the Copa competition on 4 January.