Athletic went into El Alcoraz on Thursday with a 4-0 aggregate lead over Huesca and all eyes on new manager Gaizka Garitano. The former Bilbao Athletic coach took over for Eduardo Berizzo earlier this week and has been tasked with saving the team from relegation, but first had to lead the Lions in their second leg fixture. It gave Garitano the chance to test some of his ideas after just one training session with the players and things went well.
Yeray and Dani García returned to the starting lineup while Ander Capa and Inigo Cordoba were called on as a few key players were given a rest. From the very start the Basques had complete control of the game and a few differences between Berizzo’s system and Garitano’s were visible. Athletic were more direct in attack, moved the ball quicker, were overall organized in attack and defense.
Most of the attacks came down the left wing with Yuri Berchiche and Córdoba combining to create a lot of problems for Huesca. Every single cross from Athletic looked dangerous, but it would be a defender who set up the first goal of the match. In the 37th minute Iñigo Martinez sent a long pass over the defense from behind midfield. Aritz Aduriz ran onto the ball and chipped the keeper to give Athletic a deserved 1-0 lead going into halftime.
Aduriz would strike again in the 56th minute helped by a bit of confusion from Huesca. Cordoba sent a cross to Markel Susaeta who tried to volley a shot at goal. The ball skipped to Aduriz who the defense thought was offside. Thinking the same thing, Aduriz tried to tap the ball back to Werner but the ball went through the keepers leg. The offside flag wasn’t raised and replay showed that a defender had kept Aduriz well onside.
Garitano would soon turn to his bench, bringing on the likes of Iñaki Williams, Oscar de Marcos, and eventually Mikel San José. Aduriz came off for Iñaki and the 24-year-old would pick up right where his teammate left off, but not before Huesca had their best chance of the game. After a few moments of the ball being loose in the box Martinez would be called for a foul and the home side were awarded a penalty. Camacho sent Unai Simón the wrong way, but his shot skipped wide of the right post.
In the 80th minute Raúl García played the offside trap beautifully and was given a cross that he could have shot. Instead, he gave a volleyed pass to Iñaki who finished into an empty net to make it 3-0. The referee would add one two minutes which were enough to see Iñaki pick up his own brace when he rounded the keeper in stoppage time and scored to give Athletic the 4-0 win and advance to the Copa del Rey Round of 16 with an aggregate 8-0 victory over Huesca.
Gaizka Garitano will now turn his attention to the rest challenge. Monday night’s match against Girona at the San Mamés will be the new manager’s first opportunity to start picking up points and moving out of the relegation zone. It won’t be an easy game by any means, but having a few days to prepare and install some of his ideas will hopefully be enough to help the Zurigorri earn their first La Liga win in 14 matches.