Athletic knew going into Wednesday’s Copa del Rey second leg that it wouldn’t be easy to overcome a 3-1 deficit against Sevilla. As expected, Gaizka Garitano fielded a team with several key players rested, but he still demanded a strong performance from his team. In his pregame press conference the manager stated several times that Athletic “will compete”, and that is exactly what happened at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.
The first half was choppy as both sides looked to attack on the counter and many fouls saw free kicks giving every few minutes. Sevilla had the better chances early on but it wouldn’t be long before Athletic found their rhythm going forward. Just 13 minutes in Ibai Gómez whipped a low cross from deep to the opposite side of the box where Gorka Guruzeta was making a run. The striker tried to shoot on his first touch and was off balance as the ball was skipped to the goalkeeper.
Refusing to let the missed opportunity get to him Guruzeta would have another look at goal in the 39th minute, again from an Ibai cross. The ball was too far in front of Guruzeta who still managed to get a glancing header that fell wide of the far post. As the halftime whistle sounded both sides went into the tunnel locked in a scoreless draw, but Athletic were gaining momentum.
The hosts tried to take the initiative to start the second half but Athletic fought back. Close to the hour mark Oscar De Marcos tried to pick out Guruzeta with a pass into the box but it was played too long. Markel Susaeta, who was making his 500th appearance for the club, then had a header in the box that sailed too high over the goal. Both teams continued to trade possession and chances back and forth but finally, in the 76th minute, a special goal would break the deadlock.
Markel Susaeta’s cross from the right wing found Guruzeta just inside the box and the striker perfectly placed a header into the top right corner, scoring his debut goal with the Athletic first team. Athletic tried to find a second and really put the pressure on Sevilla, but the minutes ticked away and after three added for stoppage time the final whistle sounded with the Basques having won 1-0 while also being eliminated from the Copa del Rey 3-2 on aggregate.
Garitano demanded that his team compete and that’s what they did against Sevilla. They may not have been able to complete the comeback, but winning at the Pizjuán is never easy and the team will build even more confidence moving forward. Athletic will now turn their focus to Sunday’s La Liga match against Villarreal as they look for their third straight league win and the chance to climb even further up the table.