Mikel San José “It’s Always Bad To Lose”
Gaizka Garitano wasn’t afraid to rest key players during Sunday’s Basque derby with the Copa del Rey semifinal first leg just days away. While the Lions played relatively well, the game would eventually end in a 2-1 loss which was a disappointing result in a rivalry match. The team may have already turned their attention to Wednesday’s Cup fixture against Granada but the defeat at Anoeta still hurt.
“It’s always bad to lose,” Mikel San José told GOL after the match. “The second half was more open and they were more confident. After Iker Muniain and Iñaki Williams came on we had more depth and opportunities. There was a good atmosphere.” The midfielder, who started alongside Beñat, admitted that the team expected a difficult stretch of games to start the new year.
“We already knew that January and February were going to be busy months with many matches,” he continued. “On Wednesday we have to arrive well both mentally and physically. We have to be prepared because it’s a very important match.”
Mikel Balenziaga was also frustrated by the result, feeling as though Athletic should have left Anoeta with at least one point. Looking ahead, the defender recognizes that he must continue working hard to earn more minutes.
“We had our moments, but the game was crazy and they scored the second. The match had moments for both teams. When we were better we were able to tie the score, but it’s a shame that we leave without anything. We all know the importance of the next match. It’s going to be a great night and we will go with everything for a great result. Yuri is in a very good moment. Those of us who play less know that we have to give our best.”
The Basque Derby is always an intense and physical match. Sunday’s trip to Gipuzkoa was no different and Iñigo Lekue says the team gave everything to earn the victory.
“The result is a shame. When we were better we managed to turn around the first goal, but the second goal was missing and we needed that one more. We weren’t soft nor did we lack physicality. In the first minutes they have been better, they created more chances. We couldn’t get into the game until approximately 35 minutes in. In the second half we were better and took a step forward. We gave a good effort, but didn’t have the reward.”
Although Garitano made the decision to rest several stars, Athletic were still serious about taking all three points. “It would have been a mistake to only think of the Cup,” said Lekue. “We were 100% concentrated on today’s game and also on ending the bad streak we’ve had in the league. On Wednesday we have an amazing opportunity at home so now we have to rest and focus on the next match.”
The Cup semifinals will be played over two legs and, with the first match being held at San Mamés, the Zurigorri will be eager to establish a lead ahead of the away fixture. Athletic have understandably made the Copa del Rey the top priority and there’s a good possibility that they could meet Real Sociedad yet again in the final with a chance for revenge and the title on the line.