Gaizka Garitano “We Could Have Been More Direct”
Athletic suffered their first defeat of the season on Saturday, falling 1-0 to Valencia at San Mamés. The fixture was the third in six days and the physical toll was evident as the Lions lacked their usual spark and intensity at home. After the match, manager Gaizka Garitano explained that fatigue was an issue but also noted that Valencia are a strong team that were able to control the game.
“We finished the match empty after a week of three games, but we tried until the end. We can always improve and we have to be self-critical. We faced a very good team and you notice it on the scoreboard and the way they ran the game. You have to take into account who you are playing against.”
After Valencia opened the scoring Athletic were able to shift into another gear and were much better in the second half. Garitano admitted that he was pleased with the response, even if they weren’t able to score an equalizer, though he recognizes that the performance at the start of the game demands improvement.
“I’m not so worried about how we played after the goal because we were more offensive and it’s logical that your opponent will have chances. I’m more concerned about before the goal because we lost balls that’s created mismatches in our pressure. We played out wide a lot and put in crosses, but even with 31 crosses we didn’t have the quality to finish although they were promising attacks. We were alive in the game despite the fact that they had two or three good chances. If we had scored a goal I think the game would have been in our favor.”
The manager was eventually asked about starting Iker Muniain and Ibai Gómez on the wings but was quick to point out that the pair were great against Alavés. “What was very good a week ago doesn’t have to be bad now after one game”, Garitano answered. “Larra and Córdoba need more space than Ibai or Iker who can play well when defenders are close.”
Garitano went on to state that while Athletic pushed for an equalizer until the final whistle, the team could have been more direct in attack. The manager also praised the performance of Unai López who made several big saves to keep the team in the game.
“We played a very combative game and had the ball a lot. We could have been more direct in some moments, but the crosses were very good for the aerial game. We could have done some things differently. Unai didn’t play on Wednesday, which is something that other teams have done as well. He was very good today just like Iago was the other day.”
In closing, Garitano was asked about the status of Yuri Berchiche who left the game on a stretcher late in the second half. “He dislocated his shoulder and is now at the hospital”, answered Garitano. Athletic will now turn their attention to next weekend’s trip to Celta Vigo which will be the last game before the international break.