Gaizka Garitano “Nights Like This Reinforce Our Philosophy”
From trials and tribulations to utter elation, Athletic’s Copa del Rey run has been nothing short of extraordinary. After surviving penalty shootouts in the previous two rounds the Lions hosted Barcelona at San Mamés on Thursday night where a stoppage time header from Iñaki Williams sent Athletic through to the semifinals. The Cathedral was full of celebration after the final whistle as was manager Gaizka Garitano.
“I’m happy for the fans because this is a celebration for everyone,” the manager said after the game. “Nights like this reinforce our philosophy even if we have difficulties. We have pride, the support of the fans, and a team that always fights. In the league we have played well enough to win matches but haven’t had that extra luck. In the Cup that luck has been on our side.”
Garitano went on to praise the performance of his players, highlighting their refusal to quit when faced with adversity. Barcelona controlled possession for large stretches of the match but were unable to break Athletic’s resolve.
“The team’s work has been enormous. It’s true that they imposed themselves more in the second half because they have good players, but we never give up and we recovered from the bad moments. We aren’t an easy team to beat. From the very beginning we have gone for the Cup and now we are in a good position. We need to enjoy this a little now because you don’t beat Barcelona every day.”
The goal from Williams sent the entire stadium into jubilation. Garitano shared that he believed Athletic deserved to win the game and that the goal was a reward for the team’s impressive performance.
“At first I felt joy and then I also though that there wouldn’t be much time left. We were leading very fairly after having pressed the whole match. Everyone is happy. I’m happy for the kids, for their effort, and for their generosity. Each team has its own characteristics and we always go until the end. We have many players who gave total effort tonight. I had a lot of fun watching the game because they wanted to play and we went for them.”
Athletic will find out who they will face in the next round during Friday’s draw with Real Sociedad, Granada, and Mirandés having also advanced to the semifinals. At this point, Garitano isn’t concerned about the opponents. “I like that Basque teams finish as high as possible,” he said. “Whoever we draw will be a complicated opponent.” Athletic’s hope of winning a 25th Cup title lives on, but on Sunday the Zurigorri will travel to Real Sociedad for another massive league fixture.