Athletic Club played their third and final friendly in Switzerland on Monday as they took on Turkish giants Fenerbahce. The match ended in a scoreless draw, but the Lions were clearly the stronger side and deserved a victory. Aritz Aduriz had the best chance of the game in the first half after Iker Muniain earned a penalty, but the striker failed to capitalize. Despite the result, the players were happy with their performance and will now return to Bilbao.
As is usually the case with summer friendlies, both sides took the time to feel each other out to begin the game. Neither team wanted to take too many chances and what resulted was long stretched of possession being cycled without much to show for it. After fifteen minutes of play, Iker Muniain would give the game a much-needed spark when he darted into the box and was taken down by Kjaer. Aritz Aduriz stepped up to take the penalty but sent his shot wide of the post. The Lions should have had the lead at that point, but were not able to take advantage of Fenerbahce’s mistake.
The rest of the first half passed without much action. The Lions had a few break aways that could have led to something, but the Turks struggled greatly to get anywhere near Athletic’s goal. Ziganda’s defense held strong and refused to give any good looks. Unfortunately, Sabin Merino was forced off right at the stroke of halftime with a right hamstring injury and was replaced by Markel Susaeta. Unlike previous games, Athletic did not make wholesale changes at halftime. Several players stayed in the game, but substitutions would come down the road.
At the hour mark, Iker Muniain and Raul Garcia were taken off for Inigo Cordoba and Ager Aketxe which immediately gave Athletic new life. The two were able to cause real problems for Fenerbahce’s defense and linked up dangerously with Kike Sola who had three nice chances on goal. Whereas the first half was a fairly even affair, Athletic dominated the next 45 minutes and had their opponents on their heels. Still, the Lions were unable to find the back of the net and the match eventually finished as a scoreless draw.
After the game Cuco Ziganda said he was proud of his team’s performance despite the draw and that he believes they deserved to win the game. Athletic did have the vast majority of the chances but just were not able to finish. Players like Kike Sola, Iker Muniain, Mikel Vesga, Ager Aketxe, and Inigo Cordoba all stood out having solid performances. On Tuesday the Lions will return to Bilbao and will be back in action on Friday when they travel to take on Club Brugge in their fourth friendly of the preseason.