Bilbao Athletic have spent the last few weeks at the top of the league table, but competition has been fierce. After winning four straight games the Kumeak only managed a 3-3 draw with Amorebieta last week. As the team traveled to Irun on Saturday they were looking to quickly bounce back with a big victory, as well as put an end to a 15 year winless streak at Stadium Gal.
Joseba Etxeberria had to make a few important decisions with Oihan Sancet and Dani Vivian unavailable for the game. Jon Sillero and Oier Luengo were paired together in defense once again while Victor San Bartolomé was chosen for the midfield. In addition, Ewan Urain made his first start of the season having fully recovered from a knee injury that kept the striker sidelined for several weeks.
The Kumeak started strong, but Real Unión had the first real chance of the game. A cross to the left side of the box saw Jokin Ezkieta have to made a terrific save to keep the game scoreless. It wouldn’t be the only time the goalkeeper came up big. Bilbao Athletic would respond just eight minutes later when Sillero played a long ball over the top of the defense to create the best chance of the game.
Sillero’s pass fell to Jesús Areso who didn’t even take the time to settle the ball before squaring a pass to Urain who was making a run into the box. The 19-year-old put his shot into the back of the net with a composed finish to give the Kumeak a deserved 1-0 lead going into the break.
In the second half, Sillero nearly doubled the lead with a run from deep in the midfield. However, the defender’s shot skipped just wide of the post. Iñigo Baqué would have the same chance in stoppage time from a beautiful counter attack. Juan Artola played the ball to the midfielder but the goalkeeper was able to get a hand to the shot to prevent the goal.
Saturday’s win was arguably the most complete and dominant performance from Bilbao Athletic on the road in the last few years. The Kumeak were in complete control of the game from start to finish, but did have to suffer an onslaught of crosses late in the game. Ezkieta made several truly unbelievable saves throughout the second half, including a diving effort in the 95th minute to ensure victory, and was the man of the match in an impressive showing.
The first victory at Stadium Gal in 15 years was historic for Bilbao Athletic. It was also a statement win. The Kumeak have been excellent this season under Joseba Etxeberria and are extremely balanced from defense to attack. Clearly one of the best teams in the group, Bilbao Athletic are already one of the favorites to qualify for the promotional playoffs and, possibly, finish at the top of the table.