Athletic Return To Haunt Pamplona 60 Years Later

Celebrate Osasuna

Athletic celebrate the goal that ended Osasuna’s run at El Sadar (EC)

Osasuna’s 31 game unbeaten streak at home had to come to an end at some point. Los Rojillos have always played very well in Pamplona with the support of their fans but good things can’t last forever. As Athletic took the field at El Sadar on Sunday the Lions were well-aware of Osasuna’s run but had a streak of their own to worry about.

Athletic had yet to win a game on the road this season coming into the Basque Derby but had been victorious in their last three trips to El Sadar. Something would have to give and in the end it was Gaizka Garitano’s side that came away with all three points. It may not have been the most spectacular performance, but the Lions did what they had to do to get the result.

The atmosphere at El Sadar was as electric as always. Fans urged Osasuna on for the full 90 minutes and every single person in the stadium could feel the momentum swing back and forth. At times Athletic were in complete control, but the opposite was true on occasions as well.

After just eight minutes the Zurigorri would score as Osasuna academy product Raúl García put the ball in the back of the net. García didn’t celebrate against his former club and the goal was called back for offside. Then, just moments later, two other familiar faces would combine to give Athletic the lead. Oihan Sancet, who spent five years at Osasuna’s academy, was making his first start for Athletic and played a pass to Iñaki Williams to set up the opening goal.

Williams had grown up in Pamplona and went to many Osasuna matches at El Sadar, although he was an Athletic fan from an early age. Despite his potential as a young player, Osasuna never tried to sign him until Athletic came calling. At that point it was too late as Williams accepted his dream move to Lezama and scored at El Sadar on Sunday.

In true Osasuna fashion, the hosts never gave up and would eventually score an equalizer with just 15 minutes left the play. The unbeaten streak was going to continue until more familiar faces spoiled the celebrations. Mikel San José, who was born and raised in Pamplona, sent a header into the box which eventually found Kenan Kodro who calmly beat the keeper with Athletic’s winning goal. Kodro had spent three years at Osasuna and, like Raúl García, he too chose not to celebrate against his former club.

Kenan Kodro Osasuna

Kenan Kodro chose not to celebrate against his former club (EC)

At the final whistle Osasuna fans looked on as their historic streak had finally come to an end with five players who had a connection to the city or the club making the difference for Athletic. The majority of fans in the stadium wouldn’t be old enough to remember, but this wasn’t the first time Athletic had been the ones to end a historic run in Pamplona.

Back in 1959 Osasuna were enjoying similar success at home. After finishing 5th in the La Liga table the prior season, three points above Athletic, Los Rojillos welcomed their Basque neighbors to Estadio San Juan on 11 January in the middle of a 30 game unbeaten streak at home. Osasuna’s last loss in Pamplona had actually come against Athletic and they were determined not to let it happen again.

By halftime Athletic were leading 3-0 with a brace from Armando Merodio as well as one goal from Mauri. Osasuna managed to pull a goal back at the start of the second half but could do nothing to stop Athletic from scoring five more times before the final whistle. The unbeaten streak had come to an end, just like it did on Sunday at El Sadar.

Athletic have always been relatively successful when traveling to Osasuna. The Lions have won 17 times in Pamplona throughout history while Los Rojillos have just 11 victories of their own. Sunday’s win at El Sadar may not have been an 8-1 scoreline like it was 60 years ago, but Athletic proved once again that Lions still roam and haunt Pamplona.

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