Gaizka Garitano “I’m Glad For The Players, We Needed To Win”
Athletic snapped a ten-game winless streak in La Liga on Sunday when the Lions defeated Villarreal 1-0 at San Mamés. If not for a remarkable goalkeeping performance from Sergio Asenjo, Athletic would have scored more goals in what was a great performance. Gaizka Garitano was relieved after the game and shared his reasoning for going back to the traditional 4-2-3-1 formation.
“I’m glad for the players because they have given their all in every game,” said the manager. “I can’t find a match during the bad run where we didn’t show up. We had to win a match to reward what the team has been doing. There has to be analysis to understand why changes are made. During this stretch of ten games our worst performances have come with a back four, but today we played with a back four and we have done very well.”
In recent games there have been a few questionable calls from referees that have significantly hurt Athletic. It was a different story on Sunday with two penalties being given to the Basques. “When I lose I swallow everything and congratulate the opponent,” Garitano responded when asked about the referees. “Lately, we’ve come from matches in which there have been some controversial decisions. Athletic deservedly won today because we were better and created more chances.”
Raúl García scored the first penalty, which proved to be the winner, though Iñaki Williams stepped up for the second and had his shot saved. “We have two or three who can take penalties,” Garitano revealed. “They talked to each other and Williams asked to take it.” Luckily, the miss didn’t come back to cost Athletic.
Along with bringing back the 4-2-3-1 formation, Iñigo Córdoba was included in the starting lineup. Athletic have only lost two games all season with Córdoba in the team, though fans have been critical of the winger’s performances.
“I saw Córdoba very well. He’s a player who gives us a lot in intangibles, which is something very important for a coach. Since he’s been out of the lineup we haven’t won. He has gasoline, work rate, and speed. I’m counting on everyone and between Granada and Valladolid many players will be needed.”
Reflecting on the importance of the victory, Garitano shared that the squad was in need of confidence boost. Athletic still struggled in front of goal but this is a result that the team can build on.
“We needed to win. This group has come from hard results where we were always there even if we couldn’t win. We’ve had problems in front of goal for a long time and our matches are always close. We have failed to do things well in the final third but we have done many other good things.”
With the Cup semifinal second leg set for Thursday night there was belief that Garitano would rest key players. In the end, only Iñaki Williams was dropped from the starting lineup with the manger explaining that winning the game was a priority.
“There was a lot of effort expended and we didn’t finish badly, although they did have more life late in the game. Having a good bullet on the bench like Williams helped us too. During the week we assessed whether or not to save players for Thursday. Our situation is what it is and we had to cut the streak.”
Taking the three points has lifted Athletic to 10th in the table and the Zurigorri can now turn their attention to the Cup trip to Granada. A 1-0 win in the first leg will give Athletic a significant advantage, but there are still 90 difficult minutes left to play at Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes to determine which team will advance to the Copa del Rey final.