Eduardo Berizzo “My Players Deserved A Victory Because Of Their Performance”
Athletic Club shook off the disappointment of their 3-0 loss to Villarreal on Wednesday by putting in an impressive performance against Barcelona at the Camp Nou. The Lions scored early thanks to a goal by Oscar De Marcos and were able to hold on to a 1-1 draw which gave the team a valuable point on the road. After the game Eduardo Berizzo refused to comment on the fact that Lionel Messi started on the bench and was quick to praise his players for their effort.
“I would never dare to comment on another coach’s decisions, but it was a surprise that he didn’t start. It didn’t change our game plan much. Obviously Messi is Messi and his presence or absence can change how his teammates play, but Balenziaga took care of Dembele. The midfield was fundamental. We were able to press and not get pushed too far back. I congratulate my players for a solid match and being able to take points from a team like Barcelona.”
Berizzo admitted that Messi’s entrance in the second half did change things for Athletic. They were forced to defend more, but were still able to face their hosts on even ground. The manager also praised Peru Nolaskoain who played a good game after coming on in the first half after Iñigo Martinez suffered a muscle injury.
“With Messi on the field we were pushed back more. He changed some things, but even without him Barca forces you to play a perfect game without any mistakes. Peru came into the game with some personality and he wasn’t afraid. The team suffered a blow by losing Iñigo [Martinez] but took a step forward. My players deserved a victory because of their performance. This will feed our belief that we can play as equals against anyone.”
After the embarrassing loss to Villarreal the Lions needed to play a great game against Barcelona. Berizzo noted that going to the Camp Nou was not the ideal match they wanted to have next, but he is happy to see his players respond so well and turn things around against a strong opponent.
“When you choose a lineup, you are showing confidence and hoping for a good match. After the loss to Villarreal we needed a good reaction and were coming into the worst possible scenario. We faced a game that was going to demand the most from us. We had our options and could have won it, but changes in the second half affected things. Iñaki played well and I will never fault a player for not scoring in those positions. He worked hard and then Aduriz was able to help us defend later in the game. Iñaki will score goals and he doesn’t stop running.”
Of course, Berizzo would have loved to have won the game. It took Barcelona until the final minutes to find the equalizer, but the manager recognizes that securing a draw is still a great result at the Camp Nou. When asked if he told Oscar De Marcos to push up before scoring the goal, the manager quickly praised the player who he says took the initiative in the moment.
“I would have loved to get the win because of the performance of my players. Their effort was great. But I’m no fool, to win here you have to convert chances. I consider the point to be a good thing and I congratulate the effort from all of my players. Did I tell De Marcos to move up for that goal? It was the player’s initiative. It would be better to ask him. He is a footballer who can player everywhere and no matter where he plays he does well. He had to mark Coutinho and was still able to help offensively and score a goal. I’m happy for him because he is a player the every coach would love to have.”
In closing, Berizzo stated that he believes Athletic are finding their rhythm after six games and he wants to see the team continue playing at this level. Facing opponents like Barcelona show what you are really made of and Toto is proud of his players.
“We are finding our rhythm and today’s performance feeds that. We have to continue with this way of playing and always be at a high level. I like to play on equal footing, even against a team like Barcelona. These types of games demand the most from you and who you really are comes to the surface. I’m very proud of my players.”
Athletic Club will be back in training on Sunday but will have the day off on Monday. Their attention now turns to Friday’s Basque Derby which will see rivals Real Sociedad visit the San Mamés. There is already plenty of tension leading up to the game and the Lions will be hoping to build on their scintillating performance against Barcelona.