Eduardo Berizzo “We Showed That We Can Play Well”
Athletic finally picked up their first win after going 12 straight games without a victory and it was certainly impressive. The Zurigorri defeated Huesca 4-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey round of 32 and manager Eduardo Berizzo was full of praise for his team after the match. He told reporters that is was a complete victory, but knows that the tie isn’t decided yet.”
“It was a forceful and overwhelming victory. We scored goals, which has been our issue, and managed the lead well. We had the presence of a specialist like Aduriz in the box and the reinforcement and confidence of Williams and the whole team. Iñaki continuously won the duel against his defender and created a lot of danger on that wing. There was depth in the wide areas and we generated danger. The round isn’t settled, but this lead gives us an advantage. We must go to close the tie in the next game. In football, every game is dangerous.”
Iñaki Williams played one of his best games of the season after moving back to the wing and Aritz Aduriz broke out of his goal slump by scoring a brace in the first half. Berizzo admitted that having the pair back in their natural positions took advantage of their strengths and he’s excited about what this could mean for the team moving forward.
“It’s important to always be looking to where you can exploit everyone’s strengths better. Playing Williams centrally was due to Aduriz’s absence, hopefully Aduriz can repeat the things he did in this game. Williams brings speed and advantages on the wing. Guruzeta had a blow that affected him, but he can add many things. On a team level, this result ends the streak and gives us confidence that we can win games.”
When asked why he took off Aduriz and Beñat in the second half Berizzo explained that he didn’t want to risk either player. Both had done well against Huesca and he wanted to give them some rest and not take any chances. To him it was an easy choice to make.
“You don’t want to expose yourself to anything negative. Aduriz had played his game and we wanted to get other players on the field. He is very demanding of himself and has been frustrated because he hasn’t scored goals in months. I’m very happy with his goals and it’s great news for us to have him at his best. Seventy minutes seemed like enough for him. I also changed Beñat because he has played a lot of minutes and needed some rest. The substitutes seemed logical and I didn’t want to overload them.”
Unai Simón was also one of the stars of Wednesday’s match, making several big saves to keep a clean sheet. Berizzo was quick to praise the 21-year-old while also recognizing Iago Herrerín’s performances this season too. He also revealed that he gave minutes to Cristian Ganea because the left-back may have to play on Monday against Levante.
“Iago [Herrerín] was very good against Getafe. We have two very good goalkeepers who can play at a high level. Simón, despite having a 4-0 advantage, made some great stops. I wanted to see Ganea on his traditional side. Since Yuri and Balenziaga aren’t going to be available for Monday’s match, I wanted to see him as an option. I wanted to try the same midfield today and hopefully we can repeat it against Levante.”
In closing, the manager was open about the fact that the big win can help give his team confidence that will translate over to their league campaign. He knows that the upcoming match against Levante will be very difficult, but he believes that Athletic finally showed what they are capable of and he wants the Lions to build on that momentum.
“For the players this win means that we can get rid of worry, because we can play and win. On Monday against Levante we must repeat the things we did well today. They are an opponent that will demand a lot of us, especially defensively. What stands out to me is that we were able to score goals, manage the lead, and were dangerous from set-pieces. I’m happy for the players. In our circumstances, we must face every game with the utmost attention and responsibility. The Cup tie may not be decided, but the result is satisfying. We showed that we can play well, hold a rhythm, defend effectively, attack from turnovers, and solidify all of those good things.”
Athletic’s performance against Huesca can certainly be a turning point in the season, but the Lions have to sustain the same level. They still sit 18th in the La Liga table and need to string some wins together to start climbing their way out of the relegation zone. With newfound confidence and momentum, Monday’s match against Levante just became even more important.