Athletic Club remain unbeaten in Basque Derbies this season after a thrilling 2-1 victory over Osasuna at El Sadar. Aritz Aduriz and Inaki Williams opened up the scoring in the first half, but a late surge from Osasuna nearly cost the Lions valuable points. Ernesto Valverde’s side now find themselves one point off the European zone in the La Liga table.The match began slowly with Athletic controlling possession and Osasuna trying to hit on the counter. Benat was very active in tracking down the ball and continued to look for Inaki Williams down the wing. The home defense stood firm and kept the Lions from getting any good looks at goal so Ernesto Valverde’s side had to try something else. Iker Muniain began to drift inside and the Osasuna defense had to adjust to cover the new dynamic. After 10 minutes, the stalemate would be broken.
Inaki broke down the right wing but saw a double team on the side of the box. With incredible vision and slid a pass between his defenders to a streaking Oscar De Marcos who was all alone in the box. Oscar then played a pass across the face of the goal to Aritz Aduriz who had an open net in front of him. The veteran striker put the ball into the back of the net to give the Lions a 1-0 lead, but it was also his 100th career goal for Athletic Club in La Liga play.
Athletic seemed to relax after scoring early and Osasuna took advantage. They began to press heavily and the Lions were backed into their own box for a while. Two set pieces almost tied the game were it not for some heroics from Kepa Arrizabalaga. Around the 40 minute mark, De Las Cuevas got in behind the defense and was running towards goal. Benat was able to run him down and force a difficult shot that Kepa scooped up. It was the home side’s best chance of the first half.
With the halftime whistle just about to blow, Athletic doubled their score. Oscar De Marcos was able to slip a pass through the defense and it found Inaki Williams on the other side. The winger had a tight angle to overcome but he was able to control the ball into the far corner to make it 2-0. The whistle came right after with the Lions going into the break with a lot of confidence and momentum.No changes were made at the break, but a few tactical issues were adjusted. Osasuna began to play more through De Las Cuevas and it worked. After about 10 minutes he had another great look at goal. Streaking down the left wing he was alone in front of goal at a tight angle, but his shot was right at Kepa who easily caught it. From that point it just looked like nothing would go in for Osasuna. De Las Cuevas had another chance later on that was deflected by Eneko Boveda. He then got his own rebound and sent the shot way wide of goal. It just wasn’t his day at all.
Osasuna made a few changes, including bringing on danger man Sergio Leon, and began to put more pressure on Athletic. The Lions seemed content to sit back and defend to finish out the game, but it would give them some trouble. A ball was sent to Leon who made a beautiful turn to beat Eneko Boveda. The Osasuna striker was then in on goal and put a curling shot past Kepa Arrizabalaga to make the score 2-1. With 10 minutes left to play, the game was full of intensity.
Athletic tried to control possession and hit on the counter when they could. Chances came for Aduriz and Inaki, but the Osasuna defense did well to cut them off before they could cause any real trouble. Substitute Alex Berenguer made things really difficult for Athletic and nearly helped his team find the equalizer. However, for all the momentum the home side had, they would not be able to find the elusive third goal. The final whistle came after 3 added minutes with Athletic having won on the road at El Sadar by the score of 2-1.
Thanks to a loss earlier in the day by Villarreal, Athletic Club now move to within 1 point of 6th place in the La Liga table. The Lions will be back in action on Tuesday when they host Espanyol at the San Mames and look to add more vital points in front of their own fans. Meanwhile, a loss later today by Real Sociedad could mean Athletic are only 1 point off of 5th place. Regardless the Lions are in good position to fight for Europe in their final 9 matches of the La Liga season.