Athletic were able to put their La Liga struggles aside on Wednesday as they welcomed Huesca to the San Mamés for the first leg of the Copa del Rey round of 32. The Lions needed a big win to start building confidence and manager Eduardo Berizzo opted for a very strong lineup to start the game. As expected, Athletic took control from the opening whistle and it didn’t take them very long to get the fans on their feet.
Beñat stepped up to take a free kick from well outside the right side of the box and picked out Aritz Aduriz with his cross. The striker rose high and sent his header low into the far corner to put Athletic up 1-0 and San Mamés exploded. Such an early goal brought a sense of relief, not only because the Basques were ahead, but also because it was Aduriz’s first goal of the season. There would be more.
Athletic continued to attack and their high press caused Huesca to lose possession in dangerous areas. In the 27th minute the Lions would striker again. Iñaki Williams played a pass to Iker Muniain who delivered a lovely back heel back to the winger who was running into the box. Iñaki turned the corner and tried to send in a cross but it was knocked away by the keeper. However, the ball then bounced off of the back of a defender and into the goal to double Athletic’s lead.
Just when it seemed like the game was going to slow down Athletic struck against just five minutes later. Oscar De Marcos sent in a cross from the right wing which found Aduriz once again. The 37-year-old delivered another header to the exact same spot as earlier to make it 3-0 and earn a brace. Even with a big lead the Zurigorri refused to take their foot off the gas, but would not find another goal before the halftime whistle sounded.
Huesca needed to make something happen quickly to get back into the game and they came out in the second half looking to attack in numbers. Six minutes in Chimy received the ball in the box but Unai Simón was there to make a spectacular save. Just seconds later the keeper would be forced to make another impressive stop. With the visitors gaining momentum the Basques would respond once again.
In the 53rd minute Iker Muniain was tackled at the top of the box and Athletic were awarded a free kick. Beñat sent a gorgeous shot to the left corner which beat the keeper to make it 4-0 in favor of the home side. Minutes later Gorka Guruzeta nearly scored his debut goal but the Huesca keeper came up with a huge save to deny the forward. Simón would be called into action one more time before the final whistle when he made a diving save to rob Sastre of what would have been a golazo.
The final whistle sounded with Athletic Club having won 4-0. It was a fantastic victory that will hopefully rebuild the team’s confidence and jumpstart their La Liga season which returns on Monday night against Levante. The Zurigorri desperately needed a win to calm the nerves and settle the emotions. Wednesday’s win over Huesca was a statement and, hopefully, a turning point.