Athletic’s winless streak needed to be put to bed and the Lions needed goals to do it. With Espanyol coming to San Mamés on Wednesday the Basques had the perfect opportunity to pick up an important three points and that’s exactly what happened. From the opening whistle Athletic were the better side and it didn’t take long for the first goal to ripple the back of the net.
Just four minutes into the game Athletic put together a beautiful attack down the left wing. A low cross was sent in to Raúl García but he wasn’t able to put a shot on target. However, Espanyol failed to clear the ball which fell to Iker Muniain. The captain calmly sent an effort past the goalkeeper to give the Lions an early and deserved 1-0 lead as San Mamés roared.
Athletic continued to attack and were awarded a corner kick in the 17th minute. The visitors were able to get the ball out of the box this time, but once again it fell to Muniain. Thinking quickly, Muniain blasted a shot into the far corner to double the lead and really put the Basques in control of the match. Despite the deficit, Espanyol refused to go down quietly.
The Pericos would eventually score a goal of their own in the 33rd minute with a header from a free kick, but the offside flag was raised. Replay showed that it was a very close call but there was no review. Unai Simón would have to make an extraordinary save just moments later and did well to deny another header to keep Espanyol from getting back into the game.
Unlike the first half, there wasn’t much from either side after the break. Gaizka Garitano was forced to bring on Mikel San José for Unai López at the hour mark due to a muscle injury. López could now miss Sunday’s trip to Villarreal and, with Beñat also injured, there won’t be many options in the midfield. Gaizka Larrazabal and Aritz Aduriz also made appearances in the second half.
Espanyol continue to send more players forward which opened up space at the back. Athletic were content to defend well and hit on the counter which soon led to a third goal. Larrazabal played a backheel pass to Muniain in the box as defenders quickly tried to close down. The ball deflected off of the mass of players and into the back of the net to give Athletic a 3-0 lead. While the goal was initially credited to Muniain, it was soon ruled as an own goal.
While it wasn’t the best performance, Athletic did what they needed to do to get a very good result. Gaizka Garitano also showed a willingness to change things up as Williams played most of the game on the right wing with Raúl García as the striker. This allowed Muniain to tie everything together in the midfield and lead the Zurigorri to a much-needed victory. Athletic moved up to 8th in the La Liga table and will now begin preparing for Sunday’s trip to Estadio de la Cerámica.