Football returned to San Mamés on Sunday as Athletic hosted Atlético Madrid. Because of the pandemic it had been over three months since either team played a match, but both sides were eager to get back on the pitch and compete. Despite the stoppage and not having any fans in the stadium the intensity was high with three important points on the line.
Atlético started on the front foot and even had a dangerous header in the box in the 6th minute. The Colchoneros were looking for an early goal but the Athletic defense stood strong and dealt with the attacks and corner kicks. Atlético would nearly score in the 12th minute when Yannick Carrasco was played through but he would put the shot wide of the far post.
At that point Athletic began to take control of the game. The Lions passed the ball well, enjoyed extended periods of possession, and used movement to pull Atlético out of position at times. Even when the visitors seemed to win the ball players like Dani García were there to take it back quickly.
Athletic would force Jan Oblak to make two incredible saves. The first was a free header from Iñaki Williams and the second a glancing header from Yeray that was on target for the far corner. However, Oblak couldn’t deny the Lions forever as Iker Muniain opened up the scoring in the 37th minute.
Following a long cross from Iñaki Williams to switch fields, Yuri Berchiche played the ball low into the box where Muniain blasted a shot with the outside of his boot. Oblak was unable to make the save and Athletic took a deserved 1-0 lead at San Mamés.
Unfortunately, the lead wouldn’t last long. Just moments later a poor clearance from Yeray fell to the visitors who played Diego Costa through on goal. With only Unai Simón to beat the striker calmly finished the chance to level the score. Atlético seemed to take back control after the goal but the first half would end without any more goals.
The second half brought far less action. At the hour mark Williams played Berchiche through but the left-back was at a tight angle and couldn’t put a shot on target. Diego Simeone then made three changes, while Gaizka Garitano brought on Mikel Vesga and Oihan Sancet. The substitutions affected the rhythm for both teams and the game slowed down.
In time Athletic began to have more possession once again and probed the Atlético defense with great passing. The Lions were unable to put any shots on target, but the visitors would have more chances to take the lead. With just 10 minutes left Simón was forced to make a diving save and managed to jump up quick enough to stop the rebound from being put into the back of the net.
Garitano would eventually bring on Unai Núñez, Óscar De Marcos, and Kenan Kodro but they would make little impact on the game. After five minutes of added time the whistle blew with the game ending 1-1 and points shared. As a whole, it was an impressive performance from Athletic, especially after three months without playing. The Basques still sit 5 points off of Europe and will travel to Eibar on Wednesday.