Iñigo Martinez “It’s A Pity That My First Goal Came With The Stadium Empty”
Iñigo Martinez’s first Athletic goal couldn’t have come at a better time. The defender scored from a back heel in the 6th minute of Saturday’s match against Real Betis which would go on to be the winning goal. Taking all three points helped keep Athletic in the race for Europe and will build confidence ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Barcelona.
“Winning today was very important to be able to move up closer to those above us,” Martinez said after the game. “This victory gives us a lot. I’m happy for the result, for the game we played, and for the goal. I had been hoping for it for so long and in the end it’s finally arrived and helped the win the game.”
For the third straight game Athletic scored first and were once again put under pressure to protect the lead. “We have to be more calm,” explained Martinez. “We haven’t done that lately and it’s made us suffer against these teams. Today the defensive work was exceptional.”
Aside from scoring, Martinez was almost at fault for Betis finding a late equalizer. During a VAR review it was shown that Martinez had kicked a Betis player inside the box and a penalty was given. Luckily, Sergio Canales put his shot over the crossbar.
“I don’t know if it was a penalty or not, but if the referee called it then it’s because he’s seen it. I thought I touched the ball, fortunately Canales missed it.”
Looking back at his first goal with Athletic, Martinez admitted that he wished it would have come under better circumstances. “It’s a pity that my first goal came with the stadium empty,” he said. “I’m sad for not being able to celebrate the goal as I would like, but a goal is a goal. I’ve always averaged three per season. This one came late, but the important thing is it served to win the game.”
Saturday’s victory was crucial for Athletic’s European hopes, but Tuesday’s trip to Camp Nou will be one of the biggest tests of the season. “Barcelona are a strong opponent. They had a slip up and will want to turn it around. They’ve done things very well, but Athletic gives everything on the pitch.” A win over Barcelona could lift Athletic to within striking distance of the top seven.