Coming off of a disappointing loss to Real Madrid, Athletic knew that nothing but a win at Butarque would be acceptable on Wednesday night. If the Basques could manage a victory against Leganés they would move into sole ownership of 7th place with a three-point lead over Alavés and one step closer to qualifying for Europe. It wouldn’t be easy, but a good performance was necessary.
Gaizka Garitano was forced to rotate the squad with several players unavailable due to injury and others in need of a rest. Iker Muniain started on the bench and Beñat didn’t even make the squad. Instead, Aritz Aduriz returned to the lineup with Yeray featuring at right-back and Iñigo Lekue on the wing. Mikel Rico played alongside Mikel San José in what was truly an interesting and unexpected eleven from the manager.
As is usually the case for midweek games in La Liga, there wasn’t much action between the two sides. Leganés enjoyed more possession, but neither team was able to create any real danger. The only goal came in the 43rd minute when Iñigo Lekue’s corner kick was put into the back of the net by Leganés striker Youssef En-Nesyri. Butarque was stunned as the Lions entered the break with a slim 1-0 lead.
The match was far from over. Leganés put on a lot of pressure in the second half looking for an equalizer. Several times they forced Athletic to make a big tackle, but the Lions held strong. Iñaki Williams even had a chance to double the lead in the final minutes but saw his point-blank shot saved by the goalkeeper. Regardless, the final whistle soon followed with Athletic having won and capturing all three points to take back home to Bilbao.
Wednesday’s win brought Athletic to 49 points on the season and three points clear of Alavés for 7th place. The two Basque clubs will meet on Sunday at San Mamés where another Athletic victory could essentially guarantee a top 7 finish for the Zurigorri and the chance to play in Europe next season. Only four games remain on the season and every single point matters.