Eibar 0-1 Athletic Club: Raul Garcia Volley Wins It In Stoppage Time
Athletic Club were pushed until the final whistle on Monday when Eibar put up a strong fight at Ipurua. The home side was in control for the heavy bulk of the game, but the Lions refused to go down easily. It took until stoppage time for Raul Garcia to volley a rebounded effort past Yoel to give Ernesto Valverde’s side the victory and a vital three points.
Eibar had the momentum early in the match with Athletic struggling to keep possession or create any real chances. The home side continued to attack through Pedro Leon and Sergi Enrich, but the Athletic defense did well to fend off the final ball before it caused any problems. Every time the Lions seemed to be getting control of the game, someone who misplace a pass and give Eibar a dangerous counter.
The first half was a physical affair with a few minor injures taking place. Iker Muniain collided with Escalante in the air which sent both players to the ground holding their heads. Luckily, both were able to continue. Antonio Luna was forced to leave the match after pulling up limp while trying to chase down Inaki Williams. It looked like the left-back had pulled a muscle in his pelvis and was immediately replaced by Junca.
Eibar continued to get the better chances in the first half, but the stellar work of Yeray and Mikel Balenziaga kept them from getting any real look at goal. Athletic’s attack stifled several times and it just looked like there was no cohesiveness when bringing the ball up the pitch. Inaki Williams tried to beat his defender several times but the final ball was missing, while Iker Muniain and Raul Garcia kept trying to feed Aritz Aduriz in the box. The halftime whistle finally came with both sides level at 0-0 and no real scoring chances in front of goal.
Ernesto Valverde had his players fired up in the tunnel after the break and it looked like they would start the second half with a lot of energy. However, it was Eibar again who took over the game early. Right from the whistle the home side pressed the Lions and were quick to attack. A ball was played over the defense to Sergi Enrich but Kepa Arrizabalaga did well to leave his line and clear before a shot was put on goal.
Athletic slowly began to take more control of the game and settled into more possession. Iker Muniain started to drop deeper to pick up the ball and take it forward and that proved to be a game changer. Escalante took Muniain down from behind and was immediately showed a red card. The Lions were now a man up with over 30 minutes left to play. Ernesto Valverde chose not to make any changes right then, which looked to be a mistake.
Despite being a man down, Eibar was still in control. The hosts controlled possession, attacked aggressively, and did not let Athletic string together many passes. After Raul Garcia hit the post, Valverde began to make changes. Benat, Sabin Merino, and Markel Susaeta were all brought on as the game began to die out. Four extra minutes were added for stoppage time with the Eibar fans singing their side to a draw, but Raul Garcia had other plans.
A late tackle in the 94th minute gave Benat a free kick just on the edge of the Eibar box. The midfielder put in a wonderful shot on goal that was parried away by the keeper. However, the rebound fell to Raul Garcia who acted quick to volley the ball from chest level into the back of the goal. The Athletic fans erupted in jubilation while the Eibar faithful were stunned. Athletic had won it 1-0 in stoppage time to take all three point and move to within one point of Villarreal for 5th place in the La Liga table.
Athletic Club XI: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Oscar De Marcos, Yeray, Aymeric Laporte, Mikel Balenziaga, Mikel San Jose, Ander Iturraspe (Benat 63′), Inaki Williams (Markel Susaeta 86′), Raul Garcia, Iker Muniain, Aritz Aduriz (Sabin Merino 81′)