Athletic Club 3-1 Celta Vigo: Lions Set Up European Showdown On Final Day Of The Season
Sunday was the final game at San Mamés this season and it was special. Not only were the Lions playing for a place in Europe next year, it would also serve as the farewell match for Markel Susaeta, Ander Iturraspe, and Mikel Rico who will be leaving the club this summer. Athletic understand perfectly what was on the line and their performance was spectacular.
Just 16 minutes into the game Iker Muniain drew a decisive penalty. Raúl García stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way as he put his shot straight into the center of the goal. The Lions were up 1-0 early, but they wouldn’t take their foot off the gas. Seconds later Iñaki Williams would play Muniain into the box with plenty of space. The captain pulled the keeper out of position and played the ball to García who finished into an empty net.
Celta were stunned but refused to give up easily. The visitors started to press very high up the pitch and Athletic were prepared to deal with it all. All of the momentum was with the Basques who calmly kept possession and forced Celta to chase the ball. The Lions would add a third goal just before the end of the first half when Iñaki Williams blocked a clearance from the goalkeeper and put the ball into the back of the net as San Mamés erupted in celebration.
With the match relatively decided in the opening 45 minutes, the second half was relatively quiet. Athletic controlled the game and dealt with every attack that Celta launched. The Basques seemed to have added a fourth goal in the dying minutes with a beautiful pass from Ander Capa and finish from Williams, but VAR overturned it due to offside. Celta would eventually pull one back when Capa was booked for a handball in the box and Iago Aspas finished from the spot.
Athletic will still have everything left to play for next weekend on the final day of the season. If the Zurigorri can manage a victory on the road against Sevilla they will finish 6th and qualify for the Europa League. However, Real Sociedad and Espanyol are both only 3 points off of Athletic for 7th place and hold tiebreakers. Athletic will likely need at least a draw to guarantee European football next season. It all comes down to this.