It’s been a great week for Athletic with plenty of cause for celebration. Last weekend the Lions defeated Villarreal 1-0 at San Mamés to snap a ten-game winless streak in La Liga before advancing to the Copa del Rey final on Thursday night thanks to a late away goal from Yuri Berchiche. Athletic have been building momentum and today’s trip to Real Valladolid gave the team another opportunity to make a statement.
With a few key players out of the lineup some expected this to be more of a hangover game for the Basques, though that wasn’t necessarily the case. Just four minutes into the match Athletic would open the scoring with a goal from Unai López directly from a free kick. The goalkeeper did manage to get a hand to the shot, but it wasn’t enough to keep the ball out of the back of the net.
After conceding, Valladolid took the initiative and created a number of chances in front of goal. Athletic did well enough to keep the shots from tight angles but the Lions were giving up far too much space and struggled to put passes together. Just when it seemed as though an equalizer was inevitable, Athletic would striker again.
In the 24th minute Iñigo Córdoba put a cross into the box which found Raúl García at the far post. The 33-year-old beat his defender in the air to head the ball past the goalkeeper and double the lead for the Basques. Once again, Valladolid immediately settled into possession and caused constant problems for Athletic’s defense but were unable to pull a goal back before halftime.
Valladolid continued to control the game after the break which forced Gaizka Garitano to bring on Mikel Vesga for Unai López in the 53rd minute. The change slightly improved Athletic’s balance in the midfield, though the home side continued to attack in numbers. The effort would eventually pay off when Sandro curled a beautiful shot into the far corner in the 76th minute which sent Estadio José Zorilla into an uproar.
Although there was plenty of time for Valladolid to find an equalizer and put Athletic under pressure, the Zurigorri had other plans. Iñaki Williams would score the third goal for Athletic in the 87th minute after beating the goalkeeper to a loose ball before Iñigo Córdoba made it four in stoppage time, smashing a shot into the back of the net after a cross was weakly cleared.
The game was far more challenging than the 4-1 scoreline would suggest with Athletic never seeming to be in control. However, the win is a massive result for Garitano’s side who have now won two straight games in La Liga and have moved to just five points off of 7th place. Athletic’s better run of form comes at the perfect time too with Atlético Madrid set to visit San Mamés next weekend.