Iker Muniain and Iñaki Williams celebrate the goal against Real Sociedad (AC)
Athletic Club competed in the second installment of the Euskal Herria Txapela (Basque Country Cup) on Saturday in what promised to be a great game against rivals Real Sociedad. Manager Eduardo Berizzo brought a very strong squad and started what could arguably be the same lineup he will feature in the first La Liga game of the year. Although still technically a friendly both clubs were playing to win which proved to be a wonderful test for both teams.
In the first half Athletic enjoyed more of the possession and their pressing style made things difficult for Real Sociedad. Erreala struggled to link passes together as they were chased down by multiple Lions, but it wasn’t all easy. Athletic got the first look at goal after ten minutes when a Markel Susaeta free kick found Unai Nuñez at the back post. The defender was not able to put his header on target, but it was a warning for La Real.
From there it was Real Sociedad’s turn to cause problems as Mikel Oyarzabal and others were able to test Kepa Arrizabalaga. The goalkeeper did well to stand his ground and dealt with every chance with confidence. Iker Muniain then got a chance in the box but saw his effort cleared for a corner. Susaeta stepped up to take and found Nuñez again but Gerónimo Rulli was able to make a great save.
Athletic got one more chance before halftime when Iñaki Williams and Iker Muniain combined to beat the defense. They tried to find Aritz Aduriz in the box but the ball was just too far for the striker to get on the end of it. The whistle followed not too long afterwards with the match still scoreless but the Lions showing to be the better side thus far.
Peru Nolaskoain continues to shine at center-back (AC)
Berizzo did not make any changes to start the second half and elected to continue with the lineup that had played well in the first 45 minutes. The decision would prove successful as the Lions quickly struck. The ball was played to Iñaki Williams running into the box and the forward was able to slice a shot across the face off the goal to beat the keeper and give Athletic the 1-0 lead.
For the remainder of the second half both sides made several substitutions but neither team was able to create any serious chances. Athletic continued to control possession and create problems with their pressing, while Raúl García was also able to make his preseason debut after dealing with a muscle injury for the last two weeks. The final whistle eventually blew with the Lions having won the Euskal Herria Txapela 1-0 thanks to a solid team performance at Stadium Gal.
Several players deserved praise after the match, especially the midfield trio of Iker Muniain, Unai López, and Dani García. The first two did well to create chances and pull the strings, while García constantly won back possession and was able to be an anchor in the midfield. Iñaki Williams was sublime on the left wing, connecting with Yuri Berchiche, while Peru Nolaskoain started the game at center-back and looked calm and comfortable alongside Nuñez. It was a great team performance from Eduardo Berizzo’s side and will leave fans with excitement with the La Liga season starting on 20 August at the San Mamés.