Gaizka Garitano took no chances in Sunday’s clash with Real Madrid, starting his preferred lineup in hopes of getting a positive result. The Lions would need a great performance to get the better of the league leaders and were up for the challenge. From the opening whistle Athletic played well, pressed high up the field, and made things very difficult for Real Madrid.
Both sides traded blows going forward with Athletic’s defense keeping Madrid from creating any serious chances in front of goal. As the game progressed the visitors began to take more control and after just 20 minutes Garitano would be forced to make his first change. Yeray had sustained an injury and was replaced by Unai Núñez.
Athletic continued to play through Iñaki Williams in attack, but Real Madrid’s back line did well to slow down the forward. On multiple occasions Williams was caught offside and struggled to beat defenders. Just before the break Raúl García was shown a yellow card for taking down Marcelo while trying to jump out the way and will miss the next game.
After the break Athletic’s organized defending was still a major factor. Yuri Berchiche constantly stopped Rodrygo from creating any chances while others closed down any dangerous opportunities in and around the box. At the hour mark Garitano could bring on Mikel Vesga and Óscar De Marcos to add more balance but moments later Real Madrid would win a penalty.
Marcelo was taken down while challenging for a ball but play continued. Eventually the referee put his hand to his ear and went to review the play. The penalty was given and Sergio Ramos scored from the spot to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Drama would follow minutes later when Ramos stepped on Raúl García’s ankle in the box but the play wouldn’t even be reviewed.
The rest of the game saw Real Madrid try to control possession while Athletic pressed looking for an equalizer. In stoppage time Casemiro make a dangerous tackle on Iker Muniain who responded seconds later by throwing his hip into Luca Modric. Tempers would flare and after the final whistle the players from both sides would continue arguing.
Despite the loss, Athletic played very well and will walk away feeling as though they deserved something. As expected, VAR was the topic of conversations after the match was over but the Zurigorri can’t dwell on the result. Athletic must turn their attention to Thursday’s visit from Sevilla which will be a massively important game in the race for Europe.