Iñigo Martinez “We Have A Great Opportunity And Will Do Everything It Takes To Reach The Final”
Athletic’s defenders were at their very best on Thursday night as the team held Barcelona scoreless at San Mamés. Iñaki Williams scored a stoppage time header to lead the Lions to a 1-0 victory over the Catalans, but it took several big saves and tackles to keep Athletic in a position to win. Like many others, center-back Iñigo Martinez was stunned by the goal and historic result.
“This moment is lived very rarely,” he told reporters after the game. The defender was beaming. “There were three seconds where I couldn’t even react or move. I saw my teammates running, I knew what had happened, but it all passed me by. It’s increasingly difficult to reach the semifinals and final, but we are increasingly motivated.”
Martinez enjoyed every second of the match and even the moments leading up to the game. “Arriving on the bus was outrageous,” he recalled. “When we arrived we saw so many people and that’s a moment that will stay with me for a lifetime. We leave very happy. We owed it to the fans and together we were able to take the game forward. I’ve never seen San Mamés like that. In good times and bad times the fans are always with us. We will never forget today.”
Eliminating Barcelona from the Copa del Rey was no easy task. The Catalans controlled possession for long stretches of the game and had several opportunities to score, but Athletic refused to be beaten and did what was necessary for victory.
“Today we suffered against Barca. This is a great Barca team and had even more motivation with Real Madrid being eliminated earlier. They had their chances but weren’t able to score. We took advantage of it and thankfully we did so there was no need for extra time.”
This may very well be Athletic’s best chance to win the Cup title in decades, but the team isn’t taking anything for granted. “No one expected to see these four teams in the semifinals,” said Martinez. “We have a great opportunity now and will do everything it takes to reach the final no matter the next opponent. We know that whoever we draw will be difficult.”
The draw for the semifinals will take place on Friday. Athletic could be matched up against Real Sociedad, Granada, or Mirandés and the next round will take place over two legs. Thursday night’s win over Barcelona was momentous, but there is still much work to be done to bring home a 25th Copa del Rey trophy.