Athletic traveled to Italy on Wednesday to face Roma in a friendly that was used as a final tune-up match for their La Liga opener against Barcelona. Gaizka Garitano started his first-choice lineup and the Lions took the game very seriously. From the opening whistle, Athletic’s pressure made Roma uncomfortable which led to several turnovers and a few promising chances.
The Basques controlled possession and would finally be rewarded for their effort in the 26th minute when Iñaki Williams forced a turnover at the top of the Roma box. After winning the ball, the striker surged into the box and had the composure to slide a pass to Iker Muniain before being taken down. Muniain calmly stuck the ball in the back of the net to give Athletic a deserved 1-0 lead.
Roma would eventually find an equalizer early in the second half with a stunning free-kick goal from Aleksander Kolarov. Minutes later Yuri Berchiche would be sent off for a dangerous challenge which forced Athletic to change their tactics and saw the Italians begin to take control. Despite the man advantage, Roma were unable to break through the Athletic defense and the Basques would soon retake the lead.
In the 77th minute, Dani García forced another turnover at the top of the box and put a shot on goal that took a deflection off of the defender’s arm. Raúl García stepped up to take the penalty and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to convert from the spot. It looked as though Athletic would go on to win the game until Roma were awarded their own penalty and put the ball past Unai Simón.
Athletic’s impressive performance against Roma shows that the Lions are close to being ready for the La Liga opener against Barcelona. The high pressure yielded very good results and the Basques weren’t afraid to be physical. Gaizka Garitano has had the entire summer to prepare and now the real work will begin. Athletic will play one final friendly on Thursday against Mirandés before turning their attention to Barcelona next weekend.