Playing consecutive matches against the same team comes with unique challenges and that’s exactly what Athletic faced on Sunday as they faced off with Sevilla just three days after falling 3-1 in their Copa del Rey first leg. The players said over and over that the league game would be different and they were determined to prove that as they took control of the match early on at the San Mamés.
Athletic did well to keep possession, win the ball back, and dictate the pace of play. Sevilla found it difficult to string passes together and struggled against Athletic’s intense high pressure. When the visitors were able to create danger Ander Capa, Yeray, Dani García, and Iñigo Martinez all had successful challenges and blocks that kept Sevilla at bay.
The Basques would be rewarded for their fine play in the 23rd minute when Iñigo Córdoba played Iñaki Williams down the left wing. He outran his defender and cut inside the box with two teammates open for a pass. Instead the striker chose to shoot and blasted the ball into the far corner to give Athletic an early and deserved 1-0 lead. It was the 24-year-old’s first league goal at the San Mamés since 4 December 2016, 770 days ago, and the fans roared with he drought being ended.
Even with the lead Athletic continued to attack and the game began to get more physical. Sevilla committed a few rash challenges that earned yellow cards, especially a harsh tackle by Sergio Escudero and Iñaki that was met with anger from manager Gaizka Garitano. Sevilla did have one dangerous shot on goal that was saved by Iago Herrerín and Athletic went into the break leading 1-0 and having put in a convincing first half performance.
Athletic kept the pressure to start the second half with Iker Muniain getting a bicycle kick in the box just two minutes in. He wasn’t able to make contact but the Basques kept possession and attacked in numbers. As the minutes passed and fatigue began to set in Sevilla started to take a bit more control of the game. Athletic were forced to defend for stretches and did well to deal with any chances in the box.
Just when it looked like the visitors were going to take all of the momentum Iñaki Williams would strike once again. After winning the ball back Dani García sent the striker through the middle of three defenders. Iñaki touched the ball forward and outran the defenders before rounding the goalkeeper and putting his shot into the back of an empty net. The drought was over and the floodgates were opened wide. Five added minutes weren’t enough for Sevilla to get back into the game as Athletic took all three points in a dominant 2-0 victory at the San Mamés.
The win over Sevilla sees Athletic move into a tie for 12th in the La Liga with 22 points and 3 points clear of the relegation zone. Athletic have now earned 11 points from 5 league games under Gaizka Garitano and are on the way to climbing the table and turning around what has been a disappointing season. The Zurigorri will now travel to Villarreal on Sunday with hopes of winning their third straight match in league play.