Athletic Club played their second friendly of the summer on Saturday when they took on FC Sion in Switzerland. The Lions put two goals past their hosts and had a strong defensive showing to win 2-0 earning their first victory under Cuco Ziganda. Once again the team used two completely different sets of lineups so that as many players as possible would get minutes and it turned out to be a great showing for the Basques.
The first half was dominated by Athletic who also enjoyed the bulk of the scoring chances. Sabin Merino had two chances within the first half hour, heading the ball over the crossbar once and sending a left-footed shot straight at the keeper later on. Aritz Aduriz and Ager Aketxe also had their chances, but the shots were left wanting. After third minutes of action the Lions would get a bit of bad news as Aymeric Laporte was forced to leave the pitch after feeling some discomfort in his left hamstring. He went into the locker room with an ice pack on the area, but it did not seem to be anything serious.
Sion also had a few sporadic chances but the Athletic defense did well to deal with their attacks. The Lions were able to break the deadlock before the halftime whistle when Aduriz was able to beat the keeper to give his side a 1-0 lead. Upon review it was clear that the goal had actually been scored by Sion’s Zverotic who was then credited with the own goal. Still, it was a deserved lead going into the break.
Cuco Ziganda once again started the second half with a complete lineup change, except for Xabi Etxeita who had come in for Laporte in the first half. The lineup now consisted of Unai Simon, Eneko Boveda, Unai Nunez, Xabi Etxeita, Mikel Balenziaga, Javi Eraso, Ander Iturraspe, Unai Lopez, Raul Garcia, Inigo Cordoba, and Asier Villalibre. Despite the changes, the Lions remained in complete control of the game and it was once again Inigo Cordoba who stole the show.
Cordoba’s pace and ability to beat defenders caused a lot of problems for Sion who didn’t appear to have an answer for him. Not too long into the half, the winger would provide his second assist in as many games when he set up Raul Garcia for a beautiful goal. Athletic was in the driver’s seat and in complete control as the match edged closer to its completion. Eventually Garcia would be taken off for Iker Muniain to get some minutes, but there was little action left as the whistle eventually blew with the Basques having won 2-0. Not only was it their first victory of the summer, it was also the first win under manager Cuco Ziganda.
The loss to Basel earlier in the week showed that players were still shaking off the rust of summer vacation. While there was still some loosening up against Sion, the team looked much better as a whole. Sabin Merino, Ager Aketxe, and Inigo Cordoba all put in solid performances while there wasn’t really anyone who stood out as having a poor performance. The Lions will now be preparing for Monday’s friendly against Fenerbahce which will conclude their Festival of the Alps. After returning home on 18 July, there won’t be much time left until the season starts as Athletic will take on Dinamo Bucuresti on 27 July in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier.