Bilbao Athletic 2-2 Cultural Durango: Asier Villalibre Rescues A Point With Late Goal
After seeing Athletic’s U23 team defeat Norwich City 3-0 in the Premier League International Cup, Bilbao Athletic were back in action on Sunday. The Katxorros hosted struggling Cultural Durango at Lezama as they looked to pick up vital points, but had to do so with a few key players on the bench. Once again, competing in the cup would put Gaizka Garitano’s side in a difficult position.
Inigo Vicente, Gaizka Larrazabal, and Jon Sillero were all out of the starting lineup and the absences were noticeable. The Katxorros were looking for Asier Villalibre on almost every attack to start the game, but the young striker was unable to find the back of the net. Victor San Bartolomé also hide a wide open header in the box that forced a miraculous save from the Cultural goalkeeper.
After 15 minutes Jon Rojo tripped an attacker in the box and the visitors were awarded a penalty kick. Ekain Zenitagoia stepped up and calmly beat Hodei Oleaga to give Cultural the 1-0 lead. Bilbao Athletic continued to attack with their best chances coming from set pieces. Once again Villalibre had a header in the box but sent his effort just wide of the far post.
Garitano responded at the break by bringing on Iñigo Vicente and Gaizka Larrazabal which made an immediate impact. Larrazabal was played into the box and slipped a shot past the goalkeeper, but the defense was able to clear the ball off the line before the score was drawn level. Just when it looked like Bilbao Athletic were going to find the equalizer they made another mistake.
Dani Vivian was called for a foul in the box when he tried to win a header and Cultural were given their second penalty of the game. Molina converted from the spot to make it 2-0 and the Katxorros looked in danger of losing their second game at Lezama this season. When all hope seemed lost the Kumeak would respond.
In the 73rd minute Vicente and Larrazabal would combine to find Victor San Bartolomé at the far post for their first goal of the game. The midfielder beat two defenders and found a way to strike the ball into the back of the next despite a very tight angle. The Katxorros had all the momentum and were able to finally score the equalizer nine minutes later when Villalibre finished off a loose ball in the box.
Bilbao Athletic were able to generate a few minor chances throughout the rest of the game as they pursued the winning goal, but were unable to do so. However, there was late drama as Hodei Oleaga was sent off after tackling a Cultural forward just outside the box in stoppage time. With no substitutes left, Villalibre took his place in goal for the final moments of the game and even made an impressive save although the offside flag was up.
The final whistle sounded with the match ending 2-2 and Bilbao Athletic picking up an important point after seeing several of their key players in action with the U23 team just four days prior. Garitano’s side are currently 5 points off of the last promotional playoff spot in the league table and will travel to take on Barakaldo next Sunday.