Athletic played the first of what will be three straight games against Sevilla on Thursday night. It was the first leg of their Copa del Rey draw and a match that the Lions needed to get a positive result from in front of their own fans at the San Mamés. Gaizka Garitano was forced to rotate the lineup, as was Sevilla, but it was always going to be a difficult clash no matter who was on the field.
Things didn’t start well for Athletic with defender Unai Nuñez making two errors. Sevilla built momentum early on and it would only take them six minutes to open up the scoring when Nolito was played into the box. He settled the ball and beat Unai Simón, tucking the ball into the far right corner to give the visitors a 1-0 lead and quickly silence the San Mamés.
Despite conceding early Athletic refused to let it affect their place. The Lions started to take the game to Sevilla and the fans at the San Mamés had the stadium roaring. The Basques enjoyed far more possession and were constantly looking for ways to break through the Sevilla back line. It looked like Aritz Aduriz had leveled the score just minutes before halftime when he finished off a loose ball in the box, but a controversial ruling from VAR called it off. Aduriz was also unable to continue afterwards due to knee pain from a collision earlier in the game.
Athletic would get their equalizer just three minutes into the second half courtesy of a Mikel San José header from a corner kick. With the goal finally level the Basques were starting to take the momentum until Sevilla answered back in the 52nd minute when André Silva was played through on goal. There was nothing Unai Simón could do to stop the striker from making it 2-1.
The Zurigorri continued to attack and retained the bulk of possession. Iker Muniain and Iñaki Williams combined down the left wing and created a few half chances, but Sevilla’s defense stood their ground. A strong shot from Nolito in the 76th minute made it 3-1 for the visitors and despite some late efforts Athletic were unable to find a second goal. The Lions will try to mount a comeback at the Ramín Sánchez Pizjuán on Wednesday, but first they will host Sevilla again on Sunday in a La Liga match.