The race for Europe is as tight as ever and Athletic would need a win over Valencia on Wednesday night to stay in the fight. A victory would lift the Lions into the top seven, but anything less would likely see the team fall further behind. It had been four years since Athletic last took all three points at Mestalla and Gaizka Garitano’s side were ready to break the streak.
As expected, Valencia started strong and put Athletic under pressure from the start. The hosts nearly opened the scoring in the 5th minute when Dani García gave the ball away in the box. Fortunately, he recovered to make a timely tackle but the ball fell back to Valencia who forced Unai Simón to make a diving save.
Athletic began to slowly take control of the game with Yuri Berchiche and Iñigo Córdoba combining a number of times down the left flank. Valencia were able to clear the crosses into the box but made a huge error in the 13th minute when Iker Muniain stole a pass in the midfielder. Muniain played Iñaki Williams through on the right side and the forward found Raúl García in the box for the opening goal.
After taking the lead Athletic began to put even pressure on Valencia. Los Che were pinned back in their own half for long stretches but did look dangerous when going forward. Córdoba nearly set up a second goal with a nice low cross in the 35th minute but no one was able to get on the end of the pass.
From there the momentum swung back to Valencia. Twice Maxi Gómez was set up for headers inside the box but couldn’t put either on target. The second, which was a free chance in the box, should have seen Valencia level the score. Moments before the break Iker Muniain’s left ankle was stamped and it looked as though he would have to come off, but the Captain stayed on the field without any issues.
Athletic wasted now time in the second half. In the opening minutes Raúl García hit a rocket into the top right corner to give the Basques a 2-0 lead and stun the home side. Even with the advantage Athletic refused to take their foot off the gas. Garitano’s side continued to press and tried to create more chances in the final third.
After the hour mark the manager started to make changes. Asier Villalibre and Mikel Vesga came into the game and were soon followed by Óscar De Marcos and Oihan Sancet. Valencia managed to generate a few opportunities but never looked like putting the ball in the back of the net.
The final whistle sounded with Athletic having won 2-0 to take all three points and climb up to 7th in the La Liga table. Athletic’s organized defending and structure made things difficult for Valencia all game, while the Zurigorri made the most of their chances in front of goal. The victory was massive and now Athletic will turn their attention to this weekend’s match against Real Madrid.