Athletic Club played their first preseason friendly of the summer on Thursday against local Basque club, Amorebieta. It was also the first match under new manager Eduardo Berizzo who has brought hope and expectation back to the San Mamés. Goals from Unai López, Peru Nolaskoain, and Oihan Sancet saw the Lions cruise to a 3-0 victory at Urritxe.
The Eduardo Berizzo system was on full display from the opening kickoff with Athletic looking to attack every time they had possession. Players like Unai López, Iñigo Vicente, and Markel Susaeta were all very direct and looked to take on defenders to create chances. Meanwhile, Dani García positioned himself in front of the defense in order to win back possession and cut off passing lanes.
After just ten minutes of action the Lions would open up the scoring. Vicente took the ball down the left wing and cut inside the box, beating two defenders in the process. After creating space he played a pass along the face of the goal where Unai López ran onto the ball and finished it off to put Athletic up 1-0. It was a beautiful buildup and finish, just the thing that fans have been hoping to see from Berizzo’s team.
Athletic continued to push forward, enjoying 75% of the possession in the first half. López and Vicente were constant problems for Amorebieta, while Ander Capa began to join the attack down the right wing. Twice more Vicente would beat his defenders to create a chance from the left, but the defenders did well to cut off passing lanes before the Lions could capitalize. López and Beñat also tested the keeper from distance which forced him to make diving saves.
It was clear that the Berizzo’s system involved some specific player roles as well. When in attack García would sink deeper to protect the defense, while López and Beñat were free to attack and create. Meanwhile, the fullbacks were also allowed to attack heavily when the ball was on their side of the field. The goal seemed to be getting the ball out wide and working it back into the middle. However, after losing the ball the team would work furiously to win back possession, often using at least two players to pressure an opponent. When in defense, the attacking midfielders would drop back to form a straight line with García.
At halftime Berizzo made ten changes, only keeping on goalkeeper Iago Herrerín who would come off for Alex Remiro at the hour mark. Once the second half began the Lions looked to keep the pressure on with Iñigo Córdoba, Mikel Rico, and Sabin Merino causing the most problems. However, Amorebieta stood their ground and Athletic found it difficult to get a good look at goal.
The hosts nearly leveled the score in the 58th minute when an attacker was played through with only the keeper to beat. He rounded Herrerín before Yeray cut off his angle and forced a tight shot that hit the side netting. Iñigo Córdoba had the chance the double the lead just minutes later when he found himself alone in the box, but the winger struggled the get the ball off his feet which gave Amorebieta time to recover.
After Oihan Sancet came on for Iñigo Muñoz the team really started to control the game. Gorka Guruzeta beat two defenders and blasted a low shot that forced a diving save. The ball fell to Córdoba who tried to direct it on goal but saw his effort fly wide. Minutes later the Lions would finally get their second from a corner kick when Peru Nolaskoain rose high to head the ball into the back of the net.
With the game opening up Athletic would add a third two minutes later. Iñigo Lekue dribbled his way behind the defense and found Oihan Sancet just inside the box. The 18-year-old didn’t even take the time to settle the ball and shot a rocket into the far corner where the keeper had no chance to save it. Athletic would get a few more chances towards the end of the game but the final whistle finally came with the Lions having won their first friendly of the summer 3-0 at Urritxe.