Athletic were looking for their third straight La Liga win on Sunday when they walked into the Estadio Cerámica. The Lions knew that Villarreal would be a difficult opponent. They were in the relegation zone and desperate for points, which made them dangerous. It was a tough start to the game as the home side tried to hit the ground running, but Athletic weathered the early storm.
The Basques would slowly start to take control of the game and would finally be rewarded in the 18th minute. Yuri Berchiche was played down the left wing and whipped in a low cross. The pass didn’t find an Athletic player, but Jaume Costa put the ball into the back of his own net to give the Lions an early and deserved 1-0 lead.
Athletic continued looking for a second but Villarreal refused to give up. Santi Cazorla led the attack which saw the Yellow Submarine send in several dangerous crosses, most of which were cleared by Iñigo Martinez. Despite the two sides trading chances the first half would end without another goal and with plenty of action expected after the break.
In the second half Athletic immediately tried to find the second goal, but Villarreal defended well. The home side soon built momentum and at the hour mark it was clear that the game was going to go until the final kick. Villarreal would eventually level the score in the 71st minute when a low cross was put into the back of the net by Ekambi. Athletic were stunned and knew that they needed to turn up the pressure if they wanted to take all three points.
With just minutes left in the match Athletic would fire home the equalizer, or so it seemed. Córdoba played through Berchiche who immediately found Iñaki Williams in front of the net for the goal. The flag came up and the Lions protested followed by the referee signally that it would be reviewed by VAR. Upon replay it looked clear that neither Berchiche nor Williams were offside. Even the announcers covering the game were certain that the goal would stand, but the final review ruled that it was not a goal.
The Athletic players were furious and after 6 minutes of added time the final whistle sounded with the Zurigorri only taking a single point from the 1-1 draw. The result was enough to move Athletic to 13th in the La Liga table, but the only thought was that Athletic deserved more. As expected, the VAR review was the big talking point after the game and now the Basques must turn their attention to Sunday’s upcoming match against Real Betis at the San Mamés.