Athletic knew what was on the line when they hosted Levante at San Mamés on Wednesday night. A win meant that the Lions would climb into a tie for 6th place, but anything less would keep them still looking up at the European places. The Cathedral was roaring in support of the Zurigorri who have yet to lose at home under Gaizka Garitano and the fans were certainly in for an entertaining match.
It would only take 5 minutes for Athletic to open up the scoring. A pass from Iñigo Córdoba found Yuri Berchiche on the left side of the box and the defender smashed a shot into the top corner from a tight angle. The Lions were ahead early and felt the momentum swing heavily in their favor. Levante looked to equalize quickly but saw a free kick expertly saved by Iago Herrerín.
Athletic nearly doubled their lead in the 18th minute when Iñaki Williams sent Oscar De Marcos through on goal. The right-back had only the keeper to beat but wasn’t able to direct his shot on target. It wouldn’t matter because the Basques wouldn’t be denied. In the 26th minute, Córdoba sent a low cross through the middle of the box where Williams was able to run on to it and finish thanks to a deflection off the goalkeeper.
Levante though they had pulled a goal back in the 39th minute when Coke headed the ball out of Iago Herrerín’s hands. The play immediately went to VAR review where it was ruled that Coke had run into Herrerín who wasn’t able to make a play on the ball. With the score back to 2-0 the two sides went into the break with Athletic in total control of the match.
Coming out for the second half it was clear that Levante weren’t going down without a fight. They attack ferociously and Roger Martí would be awarded a penalty just a few minutes in after being taken down in the box. The striker sent Herrerín the wrong way and finished from the spot to make it 2-1. Gaizka Garitano responded by bringing on Iker Muniain for Raúl García and the midfielder would hit the post with a beautiful effort in the box soon after coming into the game.
Oscar De Marcos would see a volley saved and Herrerín did the same to Levante, but the game wasn’t over yet. In the 89th minute, Levante would finally find their equalizer from a corner kick. Despite being in control it looked like Athletic were going to drop two important points however, the magic of San Mamés would answer back. Two minutes into stoppage time the Basques were awarded a penalty. Muniain stepped up and calmly beat the keeper to give Athletic a 3-2 lead and the win in dramatic fashion.
Athletic’s win over Levante was massive. Taking all three points saw the Lions move into a tie for 6th place and just 4 points off of 4th place. The race for Europe is definitely on and, with only 8 games left on the schedule, the Basques have their eyes on a special prize. Athletic will look to keep climbing the table on Sunday when they travel to face off with Getafe.