5 Takeaways From Athletic Club’s 1-1 Draw Against Real Madrid
Athletic Club may currently sit in fourth place in the La Liga table, but it is also important to remember that they still have a game in hand. The Lions dazzled fans at the San Mamés on Saturday and were able to hold Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw in what was, so far, the most spectacular display under new manager Eduardo Berizzo. Athletic are starting to find their rhythm and identity early in the season so it’s time to look at a few of the takeaways from the thrilling match.
Yuri Berchiche Provides Security On The Left
When Athletic signed Yuri Berchiche over the summer it was a massive deal for a very talented player. Although Mikel Balenziaga has been serviceable for the most part since returning to the club in 2013, Berchiche is just on another level and has already proven his worth early in the season. On Saturday he was tasked with marking Gareth Bale and was up to the task.
The 28-year-old hounded the Welshman who didn’t have space to create at all during the game. Berchiche’s 3 tackles, 3 dispossessions and 4 aerials definitely stood out, but he also wasn’t afraid to push forward. He completed 80% of his passes and even won three dribbles which caused problems for Real Madrid. It was a well-rounded performance from the left-back who is already showing that he is one of the best in the league at his position.
Unai Simón Continues To Impress
Unai Simón has already become the darling of the San Mamés. Due to Kepa Arrizabalaga leaving and Alex Remiro’s ongoing contract dispute, fans have rallied behind Simón who has been playing inspired football and was the man of the match on Saturday. Simón made five saves throughout the course of the game and four of them were absolutely spectacular.
Reflexes have never been an issue for the 21-year-old as he’s always been very quick and responsive in goal. However, against Real Madrid, Simón began to show signs of his leadership and was very vocal. He played with confidence and wasn’t afraid to leave his line when he had the chance to claim a cross and provide his teammates with a passing option. Fans are seeing him grow up right before their eyes and Saturday’s game was a baptism by fire.
Dani García Still The Most Influential Player On The Pitch
Dani García was another massive signing over the summer with many believing that he could be the answer to Athletic’s midfield woes. We can already say that the assumption was spot on. Through the first three games of the season the 28-year-old has been the most influential player on the pitch and that continued against Real Madrid on Saturday.
Athletic needed to control the midfield to have a chance to take points off of the visitors and Dani García was up to the challenge. He dictated the pace of play, while completing 90% of his passes, and continued to put himself in positions to intercept and recover balls. He was a force in the center of the pitch and kept Real Madrid from finding a rhythm which had a huge affect on the game as a whole. It was another dominant showing from the former Eibar man who has already become crucial to the team’s success.
Lions Show No Fear
Playing against Real Madrid is always tough. Their squad is full of world class players and getting points off of them requires a perfect performance. With the San Mamés roaring in support, the Athletic players showed no fear throughout the game and were always looking to go on the attack. They refused to play a defensive game and were rewarded for their efforts.
Throughout the first half Athletic were in control of the game. They dictated play, forced turnovers with their pressing, and looked deadly in attack. Real Madrid sent extra players forward in the second half which made the Lions have to defend more, but when they won back possession they were pushing the ball up in attack immediately. The Basques were not afraid to take Real Madrid head on and that should be a lesson to other clubs in La Liga.
Eduardo Berizzo Makes The Perfect Adjustments
Make no mistake about it, players like Unai Simón and Dani García played major roles in the outcome on Saturday. That being said, you can’t give enough praise to Eduardo Berizzo. Not only did the manager have his team mentally and physically prepared to look Real Madrid in the eyes, he did so with the players going through a 19 day break from football which can destroy a rhythm.
Going into the game Berizzo made it clear that there would be different nuances, but that Athletic would play their style of football and that is what they needed to trust in. He put a gameplan together, which also called upon different players, and the team executed beautifully. Even when momentum started to shift he brought on midfielders Mikel San José and Mikel Rico to help control the midfield which made a visible impact on the flow of the game. After a performance like this everyone deserves immense praise, but Berizzo was the mastermind.