Athletic Club knew that they needed a strong performance at home if they were to defeat Dinamo Bucuresti and advance to the next round of the Europa League. The Lions got off to a strong start thanks to two goals from Raúl García within the first 30 minutes. From there the Basques had complete control of the game and added a third from Aritz Aduriz in the dying minutes of the match. Athletic have officially booked their place in the next round and will find out their opponent in Friday’s draw.
Athletic was in control from the very beginning of the game. They dominated possession and had Dinamo chasing every single pass. When the Romanians did win the ball back they were immediately swarmed and ended end up sending passes off the mark. After ten minutes of play it looked like the Lions had opened up the scoring when Aritz Aduriz put a beautiful header past the keeper. However, the flag immediately came up. Upon replay it was a very close call that could have gone either way. There was fear that the call could really cost Athletic, but they made up for it.
In the 23rd minute, Athletic would be awarded a corner and took advantage of yet another incredibly worked set piece. While most of the players were huddled around the near post, Oscar De Marcos started creeping up to the far post. That is exactly where Beñat sent his cross. The right-back volleyed a shot at goal that was deflected in by Raúl García to give the Basques an early 1-0 lead. The San Mamés erupted and the Lions were immediately hungry for more.
Six minutes later Athletic Club would strike again with García adding his second of the night. It all started with yet another free kick, but this time on the right side of the box. The cross was headed away but quickly sent back to Beñat with plenty of space to operate. Who swung in an arching cross that was volleyed by García to beat the keeper at the far post. Two quick goals in succession had Dinamo hanging their heads knowing that they needed two goals of their own if they were going to advance to the next round.
The rest of the first half played out with Athletic getting a few other small chances and Iago Herrerin breaking up crosses with his aerial ability. A few times the San Mamés rang out in chants of “KUKO KUKO” but there was little else noteworthy. The referee finally blew the whistle after only one minute of added time and the Lions entered the break feeling very good about they lead, while fans wanted to see more goals.
There were no changes after the break, either personal wise or footballing wise. Athletic remained in control, although Dinamo kept trying to open up the game to get back into things. Every now and then the Lions would allow it happen, but players like Beñat and Mikel Vesga were quick to reel in the loose passing and re-establish control of the possession battle. Athletic continued to attack in numbers and break down their opponents with their passing ability. Eventually Iker Muniain would get a beautiful run into the right side of the box. He beat the keeper from an impossible angle but his shot rebounded off the post.
As the game progressed, Dinamo reserved themselves to sending players up in constant pursuit of a goal to get them back into the game. Athletic was content to defend and slow things down, but they had the chance to add a security goal in the 86th minute. After winning back possession the Lions had numbers on a counter attack. Aritz Aduriz was played in on goal and wasted no time in curling a low shot past the keeper and into the right bottom corner of the goal. The San Mamés exploded once again and the final whistle sounded a few minutes later.
The 3-0 victory over Dinamo correlated into a 4-1 aggregate score over both legs. Athletic Club has officially moved on to the next round of the Europa League and the draw will take place on Friday afternoon. The Lions will be eager to learn who their next opponent is, but it definitely won’t be an easy test. Kuko Ziganda and company are looking to make a deep run in the tournament and they know that every opponent is extremely difficult at this stage. For now, the fans and the players are celebrating the first win at the San Mamés this season.
Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerin, Oscar De Marcos, Xabi Etxeita, Aymeric Laporte, Mikel Balenziaga, Beñat (Iñaki Williams 80′), Mikel Vesga, Iker Muniain, Raúl García (Mikel San Jose 69′, Markel Susaeta, Aritz Aduriz (Ager Aketxe 88′)