Peru Nolaskoain celebrates his first La Liga goal on his debut (MD)
Athletic were looking to take all three points of off Leganés in their first match of the La Liga season. Playing at the San Mamés gave the Lions an added advantage and they looked to dominate possession from the opening whistle. The first few minutes saw both sides trying to get a feel for the game but it wouldn’t take Athletic long to find their rhythm going forward.
The home side got two great chances when Markel Susaeta found Oscar De Marcos in the box. His shot was blocked and cleared to Iñaki Williams who immediately sent in a cross to Aritz Aduriz. The striker was unable to put his header on target but it did give the Lions a corner kick which led to the first goal when Peru Nolaskoain was able to direct his header past the keeper to give Athletic a 1-0 lead.
Athletic would then look to take even more control of the game as they pinned Leganés deep in their own third. However, the visitors would find a way to restore parity when a counter attack beat Yuri Berchiche and led to a shot in the box. Luckily the defense was able to block it, but the ball fell to Jonathan Silva who volleyed at goal. His shot bounced off of Oscar De Marcos and into the back of the net to make it 1-1.
Eduardo Berizzo’s side was clearly upset about conceding and began to play even more directly. Iker Muniain and Iñaki Williams linked up twice to create chances but were unable to test the goalkeeper. It was clear that Athletic were finding it easy to get in behind the Leganés back line, but all of their shots seemed to come from difficult angles. The halftime whistle blew with the score set at 1-1 and the Basques needing to step up their game in the second half.
The second half saw Athletic really turn up the pressure as they looked to find a way to take back the lead. Aduriz would have the best chance of the game so far when he rose high for a cross and blasted a header at goal. The keeper made a miraculous save to stop the striker who then signaled to the bench for a substitute and looked to be feeling pain in his leg. Raúl García took his place and turned out to be a game changer.
Iker Muniain celebrates his winning goal with the fans (LaLiga)
Not to be outdone, Leganés would have a wonderful chance of their own when a counter attack led to a point blank header in the box. Unai Simón was able to get his left hand on the ball to push it over the bar and keep the score level. That save was arguably the turning point of the match because Berizzo sent his team into full attack mode and the visitors were pushed deep into the box.
The minutes began to tick away. Chances came and went and the match looked to be heading for a draw as Athletic became increasingly frustrated. The referee added five minutes of stoppage time, but the home side would only need three. Dani García was able to win the ball in the midfield and played it wide to the right side of the pitch. Raúl García then sent a low cross into the box. Iñaki Williams let the ball skip between his legs where it found Iker Muniain alone in front of goal to give Athletic the 2-1 lead and the victory.
It wasn’t the best showing from Athletic, and it certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Lions were resilient and refused to give up. Iker Muniain’s late winner brought out the passion of the San Mamés as he went to celebrate with the fans. It was also a special night for Unai Simón and Peru Nolaskoain who played well in their first team debuts, but now the attention will turn to Aritz Aduriz as fans will have to wait to find out the extent of his injury.