Athletic returned to Los Cármenes on Saturday to start the new La Liga season. The Lions ended the previous campaign with a 4-0 loss against Granada and hoped to rise from the ashes. Unfortunately, the ghosts of Los Cármenes struck again. Following a strong first half, Athletic would concede two goals after the break and left empty-handed.
Granada started strong with a high press that made Athletic uncomfortable. The Lions struggled to put passes together and were forced to defend deep. A bad pass from Yeray nearly led to a great chance for Granada but Dani García managed to break up the attack just outside the box. Curiously, Granada pulled the press back after 10 minutes and Athletic quickly took control of the game.
Athletic’s first chance came in the 14th minute when Iker Muniain beat his defender inside the box. The captain slid a pass to Jon Morcillo who wasn’t able to make clean contact with a shot. Moments later Óscar De Marcos sent in a cross from the right, but no one could put a shot on target. The Lions continued attacking.
Morcillo nearly set De Marcos up for a goal in the 22nd minute. The leading cross was just out of reach. De Marcos put himself in scoring position again before the half-hour mark but once again failed to connect with a pass. Athletic turned up the pressure in the final 15 minutes with Mikel Vesga making several interceptions in midfield. Meanwhile, Yeray and Iñigo Martínez remained strong in defense.
Granada looked to have opened the scoring during stoppage time from a well-worked corner kick. A header beat Unai Simón, but the whistle was blown. Replay showed that Raúl García was fouled during the cross and the goal was immediately waved off. Athletic were the better side in the first 45 minutes, though Granada had their moments going forward.
Everything changed after the break. Granada came with a high press once again and were rewarded for their efforts in the 49th minute. A cross into the box forced Iñigo Martínez to mark two attackers and Yangel Herrera was able to beat Simón with a header. Luis Milla doubled the lead in the 52nd minute following a turnover from Raúl García in midfield.
Garitano responded by bringing on Iñaki Williams and Unai López who helped Athletic take back control of the game. With a 2-0 lead in hand, Granada were content to defend and hit on the counter. Asier Villalibre and Oihan Sancet came on later, giving Athletic even more options going forward. Despite an onslaught of attacks of numerous crosses into the box, Athletic failed to score or get back into the game. Following the disappointing loss Athletic will have a two week break before traveling to Eibar for the next match.