Athletic had an opportunity to move back to the top of the table on Saturday as they welcomed Valencia at San Mamés. The Lions had won all three games at home coming into the match but knew that Los Che would be a strong opponent. Playing three games in six days also added to the difficulty as the Lions struggled to play with their usual intensity in the first half.
The Basques looked dangerous in the opening minutes of the game but quickly saw Valencia start to take control. Maxi Gómez could have had two goals but wasn’t able to put either shot in the back of the net. The visitors couldn’t be denied forever, however, as Denis Cheryshev opened up the scoring in the 26th minute from a wonderful counter attack. VAR immediately reviewed the play for offsides but the goal stood.
After the goal, the match opened up with Athletic managing to create a few chances going forward but never able to truly test the goalkeeper. The Basques were the better side in the final minutes of the first half and came out after the break looking for an equalizer. Valencia would soon have an opportunity to double their lead in the 52nd minute but were denied by a stunning save from Unai Simón.
Gaizka Garitano responded by bringing on Beñat and Aritz Aduriz with half an hour to play and Athletic looked much better. Iñaki Williams nearly leveled the score in the 66th minute but Jasper Cillessen made a point blank save before denying Iker Muniain minutes later inside the box. Williams would have another chance later in the second half when he tried to blast a shot into the bottom far corner but Cillessen got a hand to the ball to parry it away.
Despite Simón needing to make two big saves, Athletic were the better side in the second half. It wasn’t enough though as the Lions failed to score the equalizer and suffered their first loss of the season at San Mamés. Athletic will now turn their attention to next weekend’s trip to Celta Vigo which will be the last game before the international break.