Going into Saturday’s match against Deportivo everything was in Athletic’s favor. The Basques had played the best game of the season just days prior and their visitors had only won one game on the road all year. Even results across La Liga were shaping up perfectly for Athletic to move within five points of the last European qualifying spot in the table. From the opening whistle the Lions were on the attack and looking for an early goal to add to the pressure, but a defensive mistake would bring the opposite.
A corner kick from Deportivo was headed to the near post where Adrian had positioned himself in front of Oscar De Marcos. The defender could do nothing as the Deportivo forward headed the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga to take an early 1-0 lead and shock the San Mamés. From there the home side struggled to control the middle of the pitch despite enjoying more possession and it wouldn’t take long for Deportivo to double their lead and leave the Lions with their hands on their hips.
Once again a ball was played across the box, just over the head of De Marcos. It was then played across the face of the goal where Adrian was unmarked and waiting for an easy tap in. With a 2-0 lead and the San Mamés furious, manager Kuko Ziganda could do nothing but look on in horror as his side fought to stop the bleeding for the rest of the first half. After the break he would respond by bringing on Aritz Aduriz and Yeray for Iñigo Córdoba and Xabi Etxeita, which immediately shook things up.
It was clear that the Lions were not going to go down without a fight. The second half saw them take the game to Deportivo and they were soon repaid for their efforts. A corner kick was sent in to the box where Raúl García was left unmarked. He didn’t even need to leave his feet as he calmly headed the ball past the keeper to pull a goal back. Minutes later he would fight for position in the box and head the ball into the back of the next again. The San Mamés was alive again, but referee whistled a foul on the attacker. Replays and commentators confirmed it was a questionable call, but the Lions still had work to do.
Just when it looked like Athletic were going to turn the game on its head, Deportivo struck out of nowhere. A ball was played into the box after the defense was pulled out of position. Borja Valle ran on to it before Mikel Balenziaga could close down and the visitors were leading 3-1. The Athletic fans had the breath knocked out once again, but Athletic had one more substitution to make as Ziganda brought on Iker Muniain for Beñat which, once again, gave the Lions immense energy.
For the rest of the match the home side dominated possession and forced Deportivo to defend deep in their own area. They earned several corner and one would be magic. Markel Susaeta sent in his cross from the corner flag and it skipped through everyone to go directly into the far corner to pull the Lions to within one goal. The attack was on full strength for the rest of the game with the Basques looking for the equalizer. Despite all their attacks and chances, the goal eluded them and the whistle eventually blew on the 3-2 scoreline. It was a wonderful opportunity for Athletic to make up points in the table, but instead it became another disappointing night at the San Mamés.