Athletic put their winning streak on the line Sunday as they traveled to the Benito Villamarín for a match against Real Betis. The Lions have struggled away from home this season but were confident that they could get a good result. However, Betis came into the game in terrific form and would be the ones to make a statement with a sensational first half performance.
It would take Betis just under two minutes to open the scoring. A challenge from Iñigo Martinez on the right wing was recovered and the Athletic defense was pulled out of position on the counter. Emerson crossed the ball in to Joaquin who was all alone and settled the ball before blasting it past Unai Simón from close range. The early goal stunned Athletic and the hosts were just getting started.
Another counter attack in the 11th minute, this time down the left wing, saw the ball played in to Joaquin in the box. Once again, the Betis legend settled and curled a shot off the far post and into the back of the net to make it 2-0 as the Benito Villamarín jumped to their feet. Joaquin would then complete his hat trick in the 20th minute when yet another Betis counter led to an open shot in the box.
Throughout the ordeal Athletic attacked in numbers, which is part of the reason why Betis had so much space going forward. However, the Lions put in several promising crosses and could have had two or so goals of their own. After Unai Simón made a big save in the 38th minute Athletic would finally pull a goal back when Iñaki Williams scored a penalty kick just minutes before the break.
Gaizka Garitano made a major change to the team to start the second half by brining on Unai Núñez for Iñigo Córdoba. With three center-backs on the field, Ander Capa and Yuri Berchiche were allowed more freedom to attack though Betis tried to slow down the game from the very start.
Eventually, Athletic began to have more possession and pinned Betis back into their own third. With 15 minutes left to play the Lions would striker again when Yuri Berchiche scored from a very long shot outside the box. Now just one goal back the Basques turned up the pressure looking for the equalizer, though Unai Simón had to make two brilliant saves. Despite the late effort the third goal never came as Real Betis took all three points with a 3-2 victory.
The loss in Seville ended Athletic’s five-game unbeaten streak and the Lions will now have to start preparing for Saturday’s Basque Derby against Eibar. Athletic will need a good result at the San Mamés as they will be traveling to Real Madrid and Sevilla immediately afterward. La Liga remains extremely competitive and the Zurigorri are confident that they can stay in the race for Europe.