Athletic Club 3 – Levante UD 0 Athletic Club beat Levante UD 3-0 in the…
Athletic Club 3 – Levante UD 0
Athletic Club beat Levante UD 3-0 in the penultimate game of the first half of the season. Amorebieta, Llorente and San José, all three headed, scored the goals against the current fourth-placed team. Thanks to the win, our team is fifth in the standings, something anecdotal at this stage of the championship, although the sensations left and the game played give grounds for optimism. This was confirmed by those in attendance at San Mamés in a game that was anything but straightforward.
However, the competition does not stop in January and on Wednesday, also at San Mamés, the first leg of the quarter-finals of the Cup will be played with the visit of RCD Mallorca, coached by Joaquín Caparrós. Another attractive date, no doubt.
Today Levante entered the game with verve, without complexes, being faithful not to their last league run, but to their previous record which still places them fourth in the standings, something obviously not insignificant, especially for those behind them. Koné and Barkero have been their attacking stalwarts and the initiators of a pressure that has not been eternal either.
The difference in average age, 24 years for our team and seven more for the Granotas, has been reflected in this, but also fuelled by the frenetic pace at which our players have been playing on the pitch. All of this despite the fact that Levante tried to close off access to the right flank with the presence of Juanfran and Del Horno in tandem.
With these ingredients, the first attempts were made by Koné, both of which went wide. Athletic, by the looks of diesel at the start of the half, started to get into their stride after a short while. A deflected volley from De Marcos was the signal. After ten minutes, a lightning counter-attack ended in a corner when Ballesteros anticipated Llorente’s attempted shot, again in the starting line-up in La Liga. Susaeta’s shot was headed into the far corner by Amorebieta. A very timely goal.
As the opposition didn’t give up, things got lively. Koné headed a soft header into the arms of Iraizoz in the 14th minute, but Athletic were already on a different wavelength. Llorente’s shot was blocked by Munua and the rebound was put back into the box by Aurtenetxe for De Marcos to head wide. Munua caught Llorente’s header in the 21st minute and five minutes later he headed over the bar.
The ball went back and forth, but as Levante coach Juan Ignacio Martínez said in the press room, Los Rojiblancos were superior in both areas. In the midst of a back-and-forth season, a rebound put De Marcos in front of goal, but he shot wide with his right foot. Also narrowly wide, but with his left foot, Barkero sent a free kick in the 36th minute.
Athletic Club’s response to the visitors’ attempt to press was lethal. Iraizoz got hold of a ball, sent Susaeta through quickly, Susaeta played the ball long to Llorente who brought the ball down for De Marcos, the latter took a self-pass into the box in front of Nano and his cross beat Munua and allowed Llorente to head home from almost under the post after forty minutes of play.
Between then and the interval Munua beat Llorente to a Muniain shot and Muniain narrowly missed Susaeta’s cross. It was difficult to ask for more after forty-five minutes.
For the second half Levante brought on Valdo in place of Nano, with Del Horno at centre-back and Juanfran at left-back. The first news was not flattering, as Aurtenetxe was shown the yellow card, which is his fifth and will mean that, barring a surprise, he will be forced off at the Santiago Bernabeu. This is one more rotation of the ones that mark the development of the competition itself. In addition, Barkero had his chance in the 47th minute with a tight left-footed shot, Koné’s shot was saved by Iraizoz in the 56th minute and Iraizoz’s save against Koné was sent to a corner on the hour mark. In addition, an offside call on Koné, which didn’t appear to be offside, ended with the ball in the net after the referee’s whistle and without any effort from the goalkeeper.
From then until the end of the game, the management of the match was more homemade, and it was impossible to ignore future commitments. Muniain, as insistent as he was obsessed at times with converting the play into a goal, tried a couple of times without success.
In the opposing team, the introduction of Rubén for El Zhar in the 67th minute meant a new reorganisation after Koné, while De Marcos did not control after another good combination of several players, Toquero gave rest to Llorente in the 78th minute and after a short time he did not reach a deep pass from Muniain, who shortly after shot wide. Martínez, the Levante coach, used his remaining bullet to bring on Roger for Xavi Torres, with Bielsa responding by bringing on San José for Herrera and switching to a three-man defence.
The visitors’ attempts were dying on the Athletic Club penalty area line and the clear chances came from the home side. The next chance came from Muniain, who beat several opponents on the run, only to be denied by Munua, who turned the ball behind for a corner. In the end, the fans were grateful for Iker’s unrewarding effort when he was replaced by Iñigo Pérez. Before the corner, Juanfran was shown a second yellow card for time-wasting and after being sent off his departure was an ode to parsimony. San José missed San José’s goal from a corner in the 90th minute and Toquero even came close to a fourth but another old acquaintance, Del Horno, saved under the posts.
It would have been nice, but too much punishment for a Levante side that accepted the challenge of going in front and paid for it with a heavy defeat that also left Iraizoz’s goal clean sheet and that’s four games so far in 2012, five if we add the last one last year. Let the streak continue on Wednesday in the return to San Mamés.