Athletic Club 2 – Slovan Bratislava 1Athletic Club defeated Slovan Bratislava by 2-1 thanks to…
Athletic Club 2 – Slovan Bratislava 1
Athletic Club defeated Slovan Bratislava by 2-1 thanks to the goals scored by De Marcos and Susaeta. Sebo scored the goal for the opponents. A result that repeats that which was obtained in the first leg and even the second, a first goal by Athletic, then draw by the Slovakians and a second scored by the rojiblancos.
An identical result of that in the first Group Stage matchday supposed the first victory of the current season, on this occasion it is worth a passport for the Round of 16s as firsts in group, which means that the team will play the first match away on 16 February and the second leg in La Catedral a week later. As far as the opponents, always from the relativity of any drawing of lots and the swings that each team may have in the coming months, including a winter break for some, these will be or the second classified of the present twelve groups, or the four worse third groups with a right to play the Champions League, always excluding the possibility of facing a team from the same League in Round of 16s.
An opponent which will be decided in the drawing on 16 December, two days after visiting Paris with a fulfilled objective, as it was obtained two days before the final and by an exceeded point margin. Such as things are, until the meet in February, the Liga and Copa become our new short term priorities, with special emphasis on our visit, which is just around the corner that we’ll have on Sunday at the Iberostar Estadi against the team led by Joaquin Caparrós, who has been our trainer, with undeniable success during the previous four seasons.
Beyond the recognition and inherent sentiments of any match, more so if it is around a recent past, Mallorca and Athletic Club will offer all but opportunities.
Nevertheless, before this meet, the team had another one with its most recent past, the match against Granada, and they had to see how to manage a different but equal encounter, with a rival of different characteristics, and other necessities, but that would wait in the back. Vladimir Weiss, an avid admirer of our coach, set up the line up with three centres, but for most part of the match did not hold to his formation and, instead showed a 1-5-4-1 that at times has been very difficult to overcome.
From the first minutes, the most pessimistic saw a trace of Sunday’s match, and the most optimistic glimpsed at more options to break down the rival’s resistance. To touch and touch, but without precipitation, at least apparent. Manifested superiority, although the first approach didn’t arrive until the minute eleven, in this case through Llorente’s left boot. The striker made his debut as starting captain and had Dani’s mark as the better goal-scorer in European competition with two goals, and it still stands. Before the match he felt some discomfort in his left knee, a circumstance that he surpassed as the minutes passed. However, Bielsa decided to sideline him at the interval.
After hostilities began, in a blink of an eye Athletic reached the rival goal. Susaeta barely missed a shot on goal in the 13, but in the 15th his incursion down the right ended up in a cross, a short clearance by a defence and De Marcos, a starter on the right wing, shot on goal with his left as it reached him to slip the ball under Putnocky’s legs. Once the can was opened and given what had occurred in the first quarter hour, everything appeared easier.
And more so when Athletic did not yield in their pressure, while the referee didn’t give way even though Guede acquired merits with handling and Salzburg scored their first goal against PSG. The first place in the Group Stage was closer.
However, Athletic began losing balls in individual actions far from the rival area and almost by inertia the Slovaks were back in the game, first by means of a timid interchange of shots and soon managing, for example, to reach the break with more shot-on-goal attempts than the hosts. Thus, a dangerous situation, well intercepted by Iraizoz in the 22nd, was followed by a request for penalty by Muniain, that wasn’t; another left footed shot by Llorente in the 26th; a tremendous shot to the crossbar in the minute 34 after a free kick by Halenar (who more or less correctly predicted in the previous press conference after affirming that his team would enjoy two or three goal occasions and that it was all about hitting the target); and the equalizer by Sebo in the 38th when he picked up a long distance shot from Milinkovic and got past Iraizoz to score in an empty goalmouth. What’s more, Milinkovic tried assisting on another two occasions before the break, but both were off target.
A bitter taste at the break! Athletic Club was superior, but precipitation had condemned them to failure in decisive metres. With no change on the drawing board, Bielsa introduced Toquero for Llorente and Iraola for Iñigo Perez. Iraola was in the right wing, Iturraspe in the pivot and De Marcos by the forward centre.
In the second half, Athletic was more patient, they held on to control, but did try to conclude plays more successfully, whereas its rival was not able to create hardly any danger hardly, although paradoxically at times they did play somewhat more exposed. Herrera was unable to arrive in the 46th, Toquero had an opportunity to make a play from Susaeta in the 50th, Javi Martinez shot a header high over the crossbar and Toquero a wide volley. At the same time, the Southern wind, no matter how cool it was, didn’t affect the stands and fans got really into the match conscious the players’ effort and the importance that the three points had in order to achieve what finally happened, a fourth victory in this competition and the first position in the group.
And, as the minutes passed, Slovan began giving in, incapable of resisting the continuous siege to which it was being put under; with limited ball possessions and, at times, in their own area. Susaeta tried his luck, but his shot bounced off a defence. Athletic was finer, deeper, but it ran into that cursed last pass, like what happened to Susaeta on several occasions, for example in a great set play that he was unable to finish off with a back pass to Herrera intercepted in last instance by a defence.
Despite the fact that events turned him into the involuntary villain of the night, he showed character, continued assuming responsibilities, taking free-kicks and trying incursions and received his prize after scoring a very atypical goal for him, that is, with a header. Martinez also joined the siege, but his header went high over the crossbar and Iraola shot hard, but right into Putnocky’s hands; with Salzburg still winning against PSG by 1-0. Except for a cross by Milinkovic, which Iraizoz deflected, Slovan didn’t expect much.
On the other hand, it was necessary to score and Athletic did so in the 76th when De Marcos perfectly placed the cross from the right and Susaeta successfully finished off with a header from the left; wing on which he was positioned in the second half.
Susaeta’s goal brought more relaxation and plays to keep in the retina. In one of them, with several combinations, a pass by De Marcos didn’t find a striker, in another Muniain didn’t see a teammate with better options, in a latter play the sideline referee got confused or was not effective at the time of warning the referee, but Putnocky got ahead of Toquero and stole the ball.
Stealing sounds hard, but surely Herrera felt, at least, a bit robbed in an incursion down the left by Muniain until the goal line, his deadly pass was shot on goal by Toquero and came back to Herrera who scored what appeared to be the third local goal. All this in an area with the referee, the assistant and the assistant’s assistant watching, but that weren’t able to see when Toquero hits the ball there are three players between Herrera and goal line. Happily, the third was not necessary for the three points to remain in San Mamés.
From there until the end, a calm life far from our own area, a healing custom, and yellow card for Javi Martinez which will prevent him from playing in Paris. No problem! Firstly, because practice has shown us that sidelined players are not noticed in the squad and secondly, because the next match will not be a matter of life and death for our colours.
Three balsamic points to see that the A-Z plan is always based on firm pillars always ready for improvement and that, on a short term, will be able to pay even more attention to the Liga and the Copa; even though it sounds strange that this team with its present characteristics can go out to dispute a match with any glimmer of relaxation.