Eduardo Berizzo “This Was Our Worst Game Of The Year”
Athletic played their worst game of the season on Sunday when they drew 1-1 with Eibar at Ipurua. The home side earned a penalty after just 17 minutes, but the Lions were able to respond quickly thanks to a goal from Iñaki Williams. Still, they were on the back foot for the entire match and afterwards manager Eduardo Berizzo admitted that a draw was probably a good result based on the performance.
“Regarding my analysis of this game, I have to admit that it was our worst game of the year. We lacked fluidity with the ball because of our errors and because of the pressure of our opponent. We didn’t play football necessary to build attacks. Eibar forced us to adapt to their game and I do believe we did that aspect better than in other games. We have lost games in which we played better than today and we have no choice but to accept this draw. It’s not easy to score at Ipurua.”
With Beñat out sick, Berizzo started Unai López alongside Iker Muniain in midfield with hopes of the duo helping to keep possession. That didn’t happen against Eibar, although it was good to see the team find a way to score a goal in such a difficult match.
“There are games like today where you cannot play your way and there’s nothing you can do but fight. We started Muniain and Unai [López] in the midfield because we wanted to circulate the ball and attack, but Eibar didn’t let us do that and we weren’t together or aggressive. The match had characteristics that prevented us from moving the ball well. It isn’t a pleasant way to play, although we scored a goal like this which is something we didn’t do in other matches.”
Berizzo went on to say that Athletic did not settle for a draw, but that Eibar forced it to be such a difficult match. Dani García had to play in a much deeper role while kept the Lions from being able to settle into a possession and create chances. Athletic were uncomfortable, but still pulled out a draw in a game that Eibar deserved to win.
“We have not settled for a draw. The opponent forced us to play behind and we had to use our wings to defend and Dani García just in front of the back line. It’s not our best and when the ball is in the air a lot it’s hard to create chances. We were able to score, but I don’t think we deserved it. Eibar forced us to be uncomfortable and we were able to adapt. Today we had two chances and we scored once. Maybe we need to be happy about the team’s efficiency.”
Sunday’s match also saw the return of Iago Herrerín who injured his biceps during the preseason. The goalkeeper started over Unai Simón, who has had an amazing season thus far. Berizzo clarified the decision by saying that the starting role belongs to Herrerín and it will be up to the 30-year-old to keep his place in the team.
“When Kepa left Herrerín understood the responsibility. He was next in line in the hierarchy of goalkeepers, but has hasn’t been able to play until now due to injury. I considered today the opportune time for him to play. He did well and his place in the lineup will depend on him. We have been able to play very well overall this season and today we got back Aduriz after seven games being out of the starting lineup. That isn’t a small detail. We counted on him to start the season and we had to adapt to Iñaki in that role. The team is getting better up front and we will be able to play better because of that.”
Eibar’s penalty goal in the 17th minute was definitely a source of drama. Two minutes earlier Iñigo Martinez got tangled up with Sergi Enrich in the box and the referee got word that the challenge should be reviewed. Berizzo said that it was the correct call to award a penalty, but still isn’t happy with how VAR is being used in inconsistent circumstances.
“The referee who is watching the game on the television monitor cannot be above the referee on the field. If it is necessary to use VAR it should come from the referee on the field. There are aspects that are better seen on the field than using a television monitor, but this doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a penalty. I don’t have the feeling that we were soft today. Eibar is more accustomed to playing these kind of games and our center-backs, along with Dani, played an award game where they had to help out wide.”
To close, the manager was asked about Athletic’s interest in Ander Herrera. He was quick to say that he will not speak on players who aren’t at the club. Berizzo also made it clear that he believes the team should have more points right now and that they are going into every game with the goal of winning.
“I like to train with the players I have and I don’t think about anyone who isn’t at the club. I could say a thousand things about Ander Herrera or Llorente, but I’m not going to do it. My players are the best players in the world for the simple reason that they are my players. We have fewer points than we deserve and we have to see this draw at Ipurua as a good result. I don’t want to be seen as weak, we want to win every match and that is how we approach each game.”
Athletic will have the chance to climb as high as 11th in the La Liga table if they can win Wednesday’s rescheduled game against Rayo at Vallecas. Due to the match taking place just three days after the trip to Ipurua, Berizzo will likely have to rotate the squad on some level. With such a great opportunity to make up ground, the fans will not accept anything less than a strong performance in Madrid.