Gaizka Garitano “If We Want To Get Europe We Have To Win Games”
Athletic’s draw against Eibar was a missed opportunity. Three points were on the line at Ipurua and a win would have seen the Lions make up ground in the race for Europe, but Eibar proved to be a formidable opponent. Ultimately, Athletic would need a late equalizer from Asier Villalibre to take one point home to Bilbao.
“Today we were good in the first half,” Gaizka Garitano said after the game. “The second half was difficult, but everyone has it like that here. Football here is like that.” The manger went on to explain that Eibar made it hard for Athletic to pass the ball which prevented the Lions from being able to create chances in attack.
“We began very well, but were uncomfortable in the second have and didn’t play as much in the opposing half of the field. Eibar were always close to the area and the ball was closer to our area. They put a lot of balls into the box, although without clear chances except for the one. Without the ball we were good. With the ball we weren’t able to do much and failed to pass well in situations where we could go forward.”
Garitano blamed his side’s struggles in midfield for the poor performance. Focus was a constant issue as the Zurigorri tried to deal with Eibar’s intense pressure high up the field.
“We had many occasions that required focus and the chances didn’t come, we didn’t create them, we fell asleep in the midfield and Iker missed many passes. In the second half we didn’t have an exits. They pinned us back and didn’t let us out of our half like in the first half. After these months without playing the players are still missing the finesse that is needed. When we did create them we scored a goal. We should have been much more focused and it was difficult to shake off the direct game of their forwards.”
Aside from the performance Garitano still values the final result. Getting even a point at Ipurua is an accomplishment, but the Mister explained that Athletic must start winning games to have a chance of qualifying for Europe.
“They had the last chance to win and that makes you value the point more because their dominance made us suffer in the second half. The first half was better for us. We got a point, but we always want to win and even more in this situation where we want to reach this goal. Europe is difficult to achieve with this disadvantage. We must add three by three, but the team is competing well. We need to add three by three, but it’s a positive point away from home and now we have to think about winning on Saturday.”
As a whole, Garitano is pleased with Athletic’s return to football. Playing at Ipurua wasn’t easy, but it never is. Still, the Lions have two points to show from two difficult fixtures.
“After the break we drew with Atlético, who are one of the best teams and eliminated Liverpool from Europe. We played a very good game against Atlético and here in the first half I think we were good. We lacked a little more clarity to make good passes and go forward more in the second half. They imposed themselves and made us suffer. In some areas they dominated us, although without having many chances. From the last four games we have two wins and two draws, eight points. If we want to get there, to get Europe, we have to win games and add three by three, not one by one.”
Playing behind closed doors was an obstacle for both sides. “It’s not an excuse because we’re all in the same situation, but I would have liked for fans to be here,” admitted Garitano. “It’s weird, but you have to compete and that’s what we’re doing.. We’re getting used to playing like this.”
Garitano was also asked about officiating during the match with VAR awarding both teams a penalty. “It was a difficult game for the referee with challenges and aerial duels. Escalante could have seen a second card, but I don’t know. I can’t give an opinion on any specific plays because from my position I haven’t seen the images.”
The result at Ipurua was positive, but the performance left much to be desired. If Athletic are serious about reaching Europe they will need to win games. The Basques will be back at San Mamés on Saturday to welcome Real Betis and a victory will be the only acceptable outcome.