Iñigo Martinez “We Had To Win No Matter What”
Athletic are finally breathing fresh air again following Sunday’s 1-0 win over Villarreal. The Basques had gone ten straight La Liga matches without a victory before taking all three points at San Mamés and putting an end to the streak. Athletic played well and fully deserved the result with anything less being unacceptable.
“The league has been weighing on us,” Martinez said after the game. “We’ve been doing well in the Cup, but we had to end the bad run in the league. We deserved the victory and today we had to win no matter what. It’s a very important victory to climb positions in the table.”
In light of recent results Gaizka Garitano brought back Athletic’s traditional 4-2-3-1 formation. “Playing with four defenders allows us to press higher which we are better at doing,” said Martinez. “Today it went well for us.”
Athletic were given two penalties against Villarreal with the first coming from a very questionable call. “It’s a difficult move because the defender had his hands behind his back but the referee makes the decision and that’s it,” Martinez responded when asked about the play. VAR has things to polish because Muniain was taken down in the box and the play wasn’t reviewed at the monitor. That could have been a penalty.”
Martinez nearly scored his first goal for Athletic in the second half with a diving header in the box, but the effort was saved by Sergio Asenjo. “I’m trying to score that first goal, but my job is to defend. We all like to score goals, but my job is defending.” The 28-year-old also lamented the team’s struggles in front of goal despite creating multiple chances.
“We suffered at times, although we had chances to kill the game and a penalty saved. It’s a shame we couldn’t finish it off with more goals. The team played great and this win will give us more strength for the next game.”
Having broken the winless streak, Athletic will now turn their attention to Thursday’s Copa del Rey semifinal second leg. The Basques will travel to Granada with a 1-0 lead and hopes of advancing to the final to compete for a 25th Cup title.