Gaizka Garitano “To Be In Europe We Need To Keep Winning”
Athletic came away with a 3-2 win over Rayo Vallecano on Sunday in what was one of the most entertaining matches of the La Liga season. Gaizka Garitano spoke to the media after the game and admitted that he was pleased with the performance of his team, though they were unable to finish off their visitors and faced some late drama. That being said, the three points were crucial.
“I’m very happy with the game. We started very strong. The first 20 minutes were good because we passed the ball well, but we missed the penalty and they were able to play. We created turnovers and could have decided the match in the opening minutes. In the second half we returned to attacking, but if you don’t kill the game you will suffer in the end. We know that Rayo will take risks. They like to play from behind with the ball and we left the game alive.”
Garitano had plenty of praise for Raúl García and Iñaki Williams who scored the goals for Athletic at San Mamés. He also noted Iker Muniain’s fine performance on the right wing which was necessary with Ander Capa and Ibai Gómez both unavailable due to injuries.
“Raúl García was the best player on the field today. Everyone was very good, but he was amazing in every facet. Players have to adapt and I see players in every team who can play multiple positions. Muniain is smart and a great player. Today he played a position that isn’t his and I was pleased. The team needed it and he did well. I like Williams more up top. He’s more locked away on the wing. I see him more comfortable at the front of the attack. We needed to improve on set pieces and today that helped us with his opening goal. We have worked hard and today we could celebrate it.”
Not all was good on Sunday. Dani García left the match just before the hour mark with a muscle injury and could miss the rest of the season. Yuri Berchiche will also undergo tests for a sprained shoulder joint. Meanwhile, Capa and Ibai Gómez are not expected to be cleared to play for next weekend’s fixture against Real Madrid.
“Yuri has had a problem with his shoulder for a while and he’s going to get some tests. Dani García had a relapse to an injury he had before. He may be out for some time. It will be difficult for him to play again this season. Those who came into the game did very well. I trust the squad and those who are available. Ibai Gómez is doing well and he’s closer than Capa, but neither will be ready for the next game. We have a great team and today young players like Lekue, Unai López, and Córdoba did very well.”
With Sunday’s match now over, Garitano only wants to think about the next game. Athletic will need to get a good result at the Santiago Bernabéu if they are going to continue their pursuit of European qualification.
“Tomorrow we will train well, eat well, and think about the next match. Football is about the short-term. We have to think about winning at the Bernabéu. We need to continue winning with teams like Valencia and Betis, who usually win, competing for the same goals. To be in Europe we need to keep winning and we need to get more points away from home because it won’t be good enough for us to just be very good at home.”
VAR was in heavy use during Sunday’s match. Reviews gave Athletic a penalty, took another one away, and overturned a Rayo goal due to offsides. “I am in total favor of VAR”, Garitano admitted. “We could have had 8 more points at Deportivo when I coached there. It does justice for my past experiences because when there was no VAR I suffered a lot. I will be a defender for VAR.” Athletic are now 7th in the La Liga table and could continue climbing the table with a positive result against Real Marid next Sunday.