Athletic Club 0-2 Leganés: The Race For Europe Ends
Athletic’s hopes of qualifying for Europe were dashed on Thursday night when the Lions fell 2-0 to Leganés at San Mamés. A win would have sent Athletic into the final game with a chance to still finish in the top seven, but everything that could go wrong did go wrong and the season is now essentially over for Gaizka Garitano’s side.
Leganés started strong and pinned Athletic back to start the game. Los Pepineros were also in need of a victory in an attempt to avoid relegation, but over time Athletic started to get into the game. By the 20th minute Athletic had put several balls into the box and seemed close to opening the scoring, but everything would change moments later when Unai Simón rushed out to stop a Bryan Gil breakaway.
Simón clipped the attacker and was promptly shown a red card which changed the entire game. Iago Herrerín replaced Oihan Sancet to take Simón’s place in goal and being a man down prevented Athletic from being able to do much at all going forward. Leganés would get their first real chance just before halftime with an open shot inside the box but Herrerín was able to make the save.
Iker Muniain was then taken down just outside the box in the 43rd minute. It was unclear whether or not the foul was a penalty, but a VAR review confirmed a free kick. The chance wouldn’t lead to anything as the two sides went into the break still scoreless and Athletic under pressure.
Athletic came out firing in the second half looking for an early goal, but it would never come. By the hour mark Leganés began to make changes as fatigue set in for the Basques. Garitano responded by bringing on Asier Villalibre and Ander Capa who had an immediate impact. Villalibre would have a chance in the box just before the Cooling Break but was unable to put a shot on target.
The game seemed to be headed for a draw until the 80th minute when Miguel Ángel Guerrero chipped Herrerín. Despite the goal originally being called offside, a VAR review would overturn the decision to give Leganés a late lead. Roger Assalé would add a second goal in stoppage time as Athletic sent everyone forward in search of an equalizer.
From the early red card to missed chances in front of goal, Athletic were unable to get the result needed to stay in the race for a top seven finish. The loss, coupled with other results on the day, means that Athletic will miss out on Europe. Athletic will be back in action on Sunday when the Zurigorri travel to Granada for the final game of the season.