Iago Herrerín “We Deserved To Advance”
Iago Herrerín was the hero Wednesday night as Athletic defeated Elche 5-4 on penalties to advance to the last 16 of the Copa del Rey. The goalkeeper made a big save during regulation as well as in the shootout to keep Athletic from being eliminated. Despite being pushed to the brink, Herrerín believes the Basques earned their place in the next round.
“We deserved to advance,” he told Athletic TV after the match. “Elche played a very serious game and made things more difficult for us in the first half, but in the second half we had chances to win the match. In the end, penalties decided the result.”
The 31-year-old has been subject to intense criticism over the past few years and faced much of the same after the win. It’s not easy to hear the constant negativity, but Herrerín says it’s undeserved.
“I’ve had a very hard year with many insults and criticisms. I’ve come home many times crying and it’s not easy to be like that because you don’t know what to do. I have been Athletic since I was a child and it’s very hard for me to see the insults. It’s difficult to play as a goalkeeper but nobody can reproach me for anything. I’m training happily and well, although Unai Simón has been in terrific form.”
Herrerín believes that not even success will change the opinion of some fans. Regardless, celebrating with his teammates after the final shot was just the moment the goalkeeper needed to stay positive.
“I would have to win three cups to compensate for the insults I receive, but when the whole team embraces you and the coach is the first to recognize you after a win like this it’s important. I needed it, it’s more of a moral victory than anything else. My teammates told me in the locker room that they owe me.”
There was drama during the penalty shootout as Herrerín was seen leaving his line early before making a big save. While he hasn’t seen the replay, Herrerín admitted that he and the Elche goalkeeper both moved early on at least one attempt.
“Penalties are always difficult and we advanced even though they had two shots to win. It’s possible that I moved early and that the referee didn’t see it but I haven’t seen the images. If I did move there is no VAR and the Elche goalkeeper did the same thing when he saved Raúl García’s shot. You don’t think about it at the time. After the game I spoke to San Ramón and we both said that we moved early at some point.”
Athletic will have to wait until Friday’s draw to find out who they will face in the next round of the Copa del Rey. For now, the team will turn their attention to Saturday’s league match against Espanyol where Iago Herrerín could keep his place in the starting lineup while Unai Simón continues recovering from illness. Athletic will need a good performance to leave with all three points and possibly climb as high as 5th in the table.