Athletic have been full of confidence following last weekend’s win at El Sadar. With Granada visiting San Mamés on Sunday the Lions knew they would have to be at their best again as a win could be enough to take the Basques into the top four in the La Liga table. As expected, Granada put up a serious fight at the Cathedral but Athletic were ready for a battle.
Granada began the game with an intense high press which made things difficult for Athletic. Just a few minutes in, the visitors were awarded a free kick on the right side of the box and nearly opened up the scoring. Unai Simón was only able to parry the shot which almost fell to a Granada player but, before the ball could be put into the back of the net, Simón stretched out and pushed the ball away.
Little by little Athletic began to take more control of the game. Iñigo Córdoba had a low shot saved by the goalkeeper while Raúl García was set up for two promising opportunities. However, the 33-year-old was unable to strike the ball cleanly either time. By the half hour mark Athletic were enjoying the large majority of possession and had Granada pinned back in their own half.
With just minutes left until halftime, Athletic would be given the best chance to finally open the scoring. After Granada struggled to clear a corner kick the ball was eventually gathered by the goalkeeper. Meanwhile, Domingos Duarte shoved Raúl García to the ground after the play had ended. VAR reviewed the moment and a penalty was given.
García stepped up to take the penalty but saw his shot saved at the left post. However, another VAR review showed that Rui Silva had both feet off the line before the shot which meant the penalty had to be retaken. This time García didn’t miss as he smashed a shot into the top left corner to give Athletic a deserved 1-0 lead at the break.
With the first half seeing tempers flare, the referee looked to get more control of the game in the final 45 minutes. Several yellow cards were handed out and it became difficult for either side to link play together due to constant fouls. Granada tried their luck from mainly set pieces with Unai Simón doing well to punch crosses away. Meanwhile, Athletic continued to attack through Iñaki Williams who nearly set up a handful of chances.
Opportunities were few and far between but it always felt as though Athletic would need a second goal to guarantee the three points. The Lions would finally get their second in the 83rd minute when Unai López sent a low bouncing cross to the back post where Yuri Berchiche ran onto the ball and put it into the back of the net to double the lead. With San Mamés singing, the final minutes would pass by quickly as the Lions secured a hard-fought 2-0 win over Granada.
Sunday’s win saw Athletic move to 4th in the La Liga, though Atlético Madrid could overtake them again depending on the result of their match with Barcelona. Regardless, the Zurigorri have now won three straight games and are unbeaten in the last five. Even with Iker Muniain injured, Gaizka Garitano has been able to get the best out of the team who will challenge for three more points next Sunday when they travel to Real Betis.