There was plenty on the line when Athletic traveled to Real Valladolid on Sunday. The Lions were looking to take a 6 point lead over the 7th place spot in the La Liga table while a Valladolid win would have seen the Pucela move clear of the relegation zone. Both sides knew what was at stake and threw everything they had at each other.
Playing in front of their own fans, Real Valladolid took control early on in the match. Athletic struggled to put passes together against a chocking defense and it wouldn’t take long for the opening goal to be scored. In the 21st minute Valladolid stole in the ball in their own third and immediately hit on the counter-attack. Waldo Rubio was given space at the top of the box and blasted a shot into the top right corner to give the hosts a deserved a 1-0 lead.
Scoring first gave Valladolid even more momentum as their fans roared and Athletic continued to struggle. After the first half hour the Lions were finally able to find their own rhythm and start getting into the game. Iker Muniain had a free header in the box that he send over the crossbar which would be the only real chance of the first half. The Basques went into the break looking better than how they started, but still down 1-0 in a must-win match.
Gaizka Garitano responded by bringing on Raúl García to start the second half and the Lions quickly built even more rhythm and looked as though they would be able to find an equalizer. Aritz Aduriz and Ibai Gómez were also brought on and the final 15 minutes were full of Athletic trying to beat the goalkeeper.
Raúl García forced a big save, Athletic hit the post, and Valladolid were forced to clear a handful of dangerous balls into the box but the equalizer never came. The match ended 1-0 which means that Athletic will keep their 3 point lead over 7th place, but they are now in danger of missing out on Europe. The Lions must get a win and draw in the final two matches against Celta Vigo and Sevilla if they are going to qualify. It all comes down to this.