Gaizka Garitano “Now We Have To Look Higher”
Athletic went into the halftime break down 1-0 to Girona on Friday and needing to make adjustments to get back into the game. Gaizka Garitano got the changes perfect as the Lions scored two quick goals and completed a 2-1 comeback win at Montilivi. After the game, the manager explained that the Lions played more vertical football in the second half and was really proud of his players.
“We had a bit more aggression in the second half. In the first, our game was too robotic. We controlled and we tried to create chances, but we couldn’t move forward and played backwards. In the second half we were more vertical with our passes and that allowed to be more dangerous in the game. We tightened well and hardly suffered in defense. I really liked the second half.”
Over the past two years Athletic have struggled to turn games around when losing, but Garitano praised his team’s performance after conceding the opening goal. The Mister admitted that they felt they could win the game after Iñaki Williams netted the equalizer and played with confidence.
“We played a great game while down 1-0. We know that this team has had a hard time coming back in games. Once we got the goal we thought we could win. Getting this victory has been a test of the maturity of this team. It’s to the merit of the players. Everyone responded well. I am doubly satisfied because this team believed that we could come back. We are taking steps and we overcame a Girona team that played well and put us in difficult situations.”
Friday night’s win gave Athletic 40 points on the season and has effectively guaranteed permanence in La Liga. Now they the Lions have escaped the relegation battle the manager has finally set the goal of fighting for European qualification over the final 9 games of the season.
“We’ve started to forget the bad situation we experienced this season. In talks we have always commented about where we have come from. We can’t forget it. It’s not worth going out there and playing a little more relaxed. We’ve managed to escape from the bottom by playing at 100% and the day we lower that level we will stop being a good team. We are playing with the arrow up. It’s difficult to maintain this streak, but we have to continue in this dynamic. Now we have to look higher. You have to look for a goal in the remaining nine matches.”
Athletic’s improvement under Gaizka Garitano has been absolutely sensational. The Zurigorri have the fourth best record in La Liga since the coaching change and have been one of the strongest teams in Spain. A win on Wednesday against Levante could see Athletic move into 6th place in the table and possibly just three points off of the final Champions League spot.