Athletic Club 1-FC Lokomotiv 0 Athletic Club have qualified for the next round of the…
Athletic Club 1-FC Lokomotiv 0
Athletic Club have qualified for the next round of the European League after defeating Lokomotiv 1-0. Athletic was the only team in this match who tried from the beginning to win the fixture. The referee ejected Amorebieta from the field and shortly after in the 62nd minute of the match, Muniain scored the only goal of the encounter. The Russian team put up a solid defence and Athletic had serious difficulties creating goal occasions. The last time Athletic advanced to this round was in the 1994/1995 season after eliminating Newcastle and pairing up with Parma. Now, we will face Manchester United, first in Old Trafford on March 8th, and a week later in Bilbao. The last time that Athletic and Manchester United faced-off was on a snowy day in Bilbao in 1956/1957 in the equivalent to the actual Champions League. There is no time to lose; Athletic will play against Villarreal this Sunday at 12:00 p.m. in Liga.
The encounter was not a pleasure to behold because the Russian team travelled to Bilbao to defend their advantage. The first opportunity came from Caicedo, and Iraizoz tipped the ball away from the goal area. Lokomotiv has scored in each away match that they have participated in.
As suspected, Lokomotiv was on the defensive just like in the last minutes of the encounter played in Moscow. They left Caicedo all alone in Athletic’s defensive zone and only on a few occasions did they counterattack. Before the face-off in Bilbao, Caicedo stated that the atmosphere in San Mamés was nothing to write home about, but after playing there, he realized that it wasn’t as ho-hum as he made it out to be.
The Russians fought tooth and nail to defend their 2-1 victory of the first round. Athletic’s goal in Russia was decisive for the final result of the elimination round.
Besides, when Los Leones scored their first goal, our team was playing with only ten players because Amorebieta had been ejected a few minutes before Athletic’s goal. The Russians tried to react, but it was too late.
Athletic, little by little with more or less certainty, took hold of the match but without creating clear occasions to score. It was not surprising that Lokomotiv played defensively, only counterattacking sparingly and wasting time whenever possible.
Meanwhile, ex-player Morientes broadcasted the transmission live calling our team, “el Bilbao”, and in an offensive plan, Iraola shot hard but out to the terrace, and in the 6th minute, Toquero fired outside of the net. Javi Martinez’s attempt in the 11th ended up outside the field on top of the crossbar after receiving a pass from a corner kick. A short time later, Muniain’s soft shot was intercepted by Guilherme.
Minutes passed by and Athletic was not able to find a clear path to goal. On a few occasions, the Russians approached Iraizoz’s net. In the 22nd minute of the match, De Marcos was alert and intercepted the Russian counterattack, and in the 24th, Iraizoz was forced to leave the penalty area to tip off a ball. There weren’t any goal occasions, and the Russians continued applying pressure upon Athletic. If Lokomotiv had scored a goal, Athletic would have been forced to score twice.
It was a rough encounter, and that was how the Russians wanted it to be. Iturraspe received the first yellow card of the fixture. Initially, the Polish referee seemed impartial to both teams, but after a while, his calls went from night to day.
Very few moments of interest were prevalent in the next minutes of the match. Lots of interruptions, time wasted and Athletic fans emoting their frustration and agitation. It was the end of the first half.
In the second half, Marcelo Bielsa made a few changes on the field. De Marcos was placed in the midfield, and his place was taken up by Iñigo Pérez, who was substituting for Iturraspe. Toquero was moved to the right side of the field, and Susaeta was substituted by San José. Javi Martínez was placed in the center of the field.
The first minutes of the second half looked promising, and didn’t look anything like what we witnessed in Moscow. Los Leones needed a goal and they went all out in the match, until Amorebieta’s aforementioned expulsion.
In the 48th minute of the match, Iñigo Pérez sent a free kick to the penalty area, but no one was able to take advantage of the pass. In the 50th minute, Llorente sent a header out of the field and in the 53rd, Toquero passed a ball to Llorente but El Rey León volleyed a header into Guilherme’s hands.
A short time later, the referee showed two yellow cards, one to Caicedo and one to Amorebieta. In the next play, Amorebieta blocked a Russian player and the Polish referee showed a second card to Amorebieta.
The ref’s decision was greatly celebrated by both Russian fans and players without prior knowledge that Los Leones would roar once more. There was no time for whining and self-loathing; Athletic had to keep their eyes on the prize.
In fact, Athletic had an opportunity to goal via Herrera, but his shot was expelled out of the field. In the corner kick, Llorente, with a header, was blocked and Muniain was present to place the ball into the Russian net. Pandemonium ensued in La Catedral with 28 minutes left to spare in the fixture.
For certain the Athletic supporters were suffering, enduring a short margin advantage of only 1-0. Couceiro had already utilized his offensive players in the field. Obinna and Sychev were substituted by Torbinsky and Ozdoev, and meanwhile, Athletic replaced Herrera with Ekiza. De Marcos was moved to the left side of the field and Martínez was placed in the midfield to accompany Iñigo Pérez.
After Athletic scored the first goal, there was a bit of uncertainty as to what to do next. In the 69th minute, Iraizoz blocked a long distance shot by Tarasov. Tarasov should have received at least a yellow card for blocking an Athletic player on more than one occasion, but the referee didn’t give it any credence whatsoever.
The fans were up in arms because the ref didn’t think twice about showing a yellow card to some Athletic players, while at the same time ignored the actions of Lokomotiv. Llorente, in the 74th minute, kicked the ball high to the top of the net and got hurt, and the minutes marched on with no vital plays to speak of.
Ten minutes left in the encounter, and there would be another substitution made by the Moscow team. Da Costa substituted Belyaeb. Iñigo Pérez attempted to score an “Olympic goal”, but without success. Llorente also tried, but no luck to be had. The last minutes of the match were nerve-wracking because Athletic has lost a lot of points in the last minutes in this season.
Mission accomplished. Athletic is in the next round and for many of us, including players and supporters, it is a welcome gift to witness a face-off against Manchester United, one of the finest teams in the world. This isn’t any ordinary tour; Los Leones are on route to Old Trafford to garner victory.