Monday night was another disappointing game at the San Mamés as fans watched their Lions fall 3-1 to Levante. It was the first time Levante had won at the San Mamés since 2013 and left the Basques with a bad taste in their mouth. Athletic did take an early lead through a wonder goal from Raúl García, but the visitors took control before the half through two free kicks. Levante then added a third late in the second half to seal the victory and silence the stadium. After the match manager Kuko Ziganda addressed the media and found it really difficult to explain what had happened.
“When a game ends like this, it’s hard to explain. The year has not been good and it’s been really hard for us to play our best football. We have not been successful but we have tried with a lot of heart. This year there is no way we can play two good games in a row, we haven’t had consistency. It happens a thousand times and a thousand times you ask yourself why? There were some good moments today, but in the end we were not good enough.”
The manager went on to say that Levante were the better side and highlighted the fact that they are in a battle against relegation which saw them play at their best. He says the Lions were unable to string together good plays and that their chances in front of goal were simply unlucky. It was a bit like the match against Deportivo a few weeks ago and Athletic seems to have not learned their lesson.
“We started well with Raúl García’s goal then we wanted more and that cost us. We tried to take control of the game but every time they stole the ball they were dangerous. They forced us to make mistakes and that helped them score goals. The second half we had some good shots, but we were unlucky. It was clear that Levante were playing for their lives because they played a good match and with confidence. They took chances and it paid off. We, on the contrary, played with a lack of fluency and weren’t able to string together good moments.”
In closing, Ziganda admitted that he has to take the bulk of the blame for the loss and for the disappointing season as a whole. He recognizes the situation that he is in, with rumors suggesting that the club have already lined up a replacement who will take over in the summer. For now, the manager is only focused on the next game which just so happened to be a Basque derby against Real Sociedad at the Anoeta on Saturday.
“I am aware of the situation that I am in. When things don’t go well, it gets tough. The fans go home angry because we did not win. That hurts a lot. The team has to go inside and tomorrow we have to train hard. We can only focus on the next game, which will be big. We know what kind of game the derby will be and we must go to Anoeta to play a great game and make the fans happy. At the end of the day the majority of the responsibility is with the coach. That is what I’m here for, to lead the team. I take responsibility for this season because I know I am mostly to blame. I say this with all my heart.”
Saturday’s match against Real Sociedad is going to be quite interesting. Three points separate the two sides in the table and, as of right now, Athletic are currently the last Basque club placed in the La Liga table. A win would see the Lions pull level with their rivals, but it won’t be easy. In addition, this will be Iñigo Martinez’s first game against La Real since making the switch to Athletic back in January. The fans at the Anoeta are sure to be ready to let the defender have it, which will only add to the drama surrounding the derby.