Gaizka Garitano “It Was A Good Result”

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Athletic may not have won Sunday’s match against Villarreal, but keeping a clean sheet at Estadio de la Cerámica and picking up one point is still a very good result. The Yellow Submarine had scored in 20 straight games at home before being held silent by the Basques and were averaging 3.4 goals on the own field this season. Naturally. Gaizka Garitano was pleased with the performance.

“It’s a good result, especially because of the stage and what we have worked for,” the manager told reporters after the game. “Our opponent required us to be well organized and attentive. We also had chances to win because there were opportunities to score and because our goalkeeper made many saves.”

Unai Simón was, without question, the most influential player on the pitch. The Lezama product made four incredible saves to keep Villarreal scoreless and received immense praise from his manager.

“He made very good and key saves in the game. When you bet on a 22-year-old kid you have to be patient when things are going well and when there are some doubts. This is part of the process so that we have a great goalkeeper in the future. Whoever is in goal for Athletic is looked at with a magnifying glass. I think this game will be good for him.”

Garitano went on to emphasize the fact that Athletic held the Villarreal attack at bay, something not many have been able to do this season. The manager also explained the tactics in the final minutes of the game as the goal was to catch the hosts on a counter attack.

“Keeping them scoreless on the field, when they had 10 corners, has merit. We knew that Villarreal were going to send many players up in the final stretch. We had Córdoba, Larrazabal, and Williams trying to find some fast counters because of how many Villarreal players were attacking, but there weren’t many opportunities.”

Inaki Williams Villarreal

“There were more opportunities from set pieces but we didn’t score.” (AC)

Iker Muniain played in the midfield for the second straight game and was one again crucial to Athletic’s ability to create chances. Garitano shared that, with two defensive midfielders on the pitch, it was important that Muniain had the freedom to take the ball forward in attack.

“When we play with two physical pivots we like to put Muniain inside to have the ball. The center of the field is key for us to generate chances and push the ball forward either through dribbles or with a player like Beñat or Unai, who were injured. We created several chance, and we have been for a while, but we aren’t scoring. There were more opportunities from set pieces but we still didn’t score.”

Mikel San José and Ibai Gómez made their returns to the starting lineup as well, but neither played the full 90 minutes. “They were fine, although they had not played for a long time,” Garitano answered when asked about their performances. “They contributed a lot. When San José was tired Vesga gave us a lot or organization in the midfield. We wanted a good collective work and I would like to highlight everyone because to get a result here you have to do a good job.

For a scoreless draw, Sunday’s match had plenty of excitement. Both sides had several chances to score goals and Villarreal thought they should have been awarded a penalty when a shot struck the hand of Yuri Berchiche. “I haven’t seen the play,” Garitano stated bluntly when asked about it. That play wasn’t reviewed but many have claimed that it should have been.

The draw against Villarreal has now given Athletic 17 points on the season and the Basques currently sit 10th in the La Liga table. With the league so competitive this year, Athletic are now just three points off of 6th place and will have the opportunities to climb further up the standings when they host Levante on Sunday at San Mamés.

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