Goalkeeping error gifts Pucela a point
LA LIGA SANTANDER ROUND 9
SAN MAMÉS, BILBAO, SPAIN
ATHLETIC CLUB 1
Iñaki Williams 33'
REAL VALLADOLID 1
Iñigo Martinez (O.G.) 72'
For the second consecutive year, Real Valladolid snatched a draw at San Mamés, but it was a mistake from Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simón which earned Pucela a point.
Gaizka Garitano made two changes to his starting eleven from the loss to Celta before the international break; Iñigo Córdoba came in for Oscar de Marcos who dropped to the bench and Mikel Vesga was replaced by Unai López.
Across the other side of the field, visiting coach Sergio González needed only to make one switch to the team that had drawn 0-0 with Atlético in their previous match. Sergi Guardiola was partnered up front by Enes Ünal who benefitted from the absence of Sandro. Joaquín – a central defender by trade – was employed as a makeshift midfielder for the second match in a row.
Athletic settled into the game quickly and fashioned no less than four good chances inside the opening fifteen minutes. Firstly, Iñaki Williams crossed from the right for Córdoba but he couldn’t keep his header down. Left-back Mikel Balenziaga drove a ball across the face of the goal which evaded both Córdoba and Williams as it fizzed by. Yeray Álvarez was next to threaten when he climbed above Real Valladolid defenders Mohammed Salisu and Kiko Olivas but guided his header narrowly past goalkeeper Jordi Masip’s left-hand post. Masip was called into action to deny Raúl García on the quarter hour mark. Sergi Guardiola’s errant pass intended for Toni Villa was picked off by Iker Muniain who burst forward and held off the Real Valladolid midfielder snapping at his heels. He laid the ball into the path of the former Atlético player who took a touch to compose himself before firing goalwards, but Masip threw himself in the way to block the shot.
Against the run of play, the visitors found themselves with a gilt-edged opportunity to take a shock lead but were unable to take advantage. Masip’s long clearance went as far as Yeray, who mis-controlled it and had his pocket picked by Ünal. The Turkish striker bore down on goal, but Athletic keeper Simón had rushed off his line and spread himself as big as possible, blocking the on-loan striker’s shot with his chest. One wonders that if Ünal had played more minutes of late, his sharpness may well have been better?
This was as good as it got for Pucela in the first half, and Athletic soon resumed their onslaught. Muniain combined with Williams to play in right-back Ander Capa who had got forward and gathered a backheel from the forward, but Kiko Olivas was alert to block the shot. It was of little surprise to anyone when Athletic finally unlocked their opponents’ defence in the 33rd minute. The visitors attack broke down on the edge of the Athletic box and Unai López thumped the ball forward speculatively. Williams used his pace to get on the end of it and fended off Kiko Olivas as he chased it down, before cutting into the box, brushing off Salisu and rounding Masip. Instead of lashing the ball into the net, he took a further touch to evade Kiko Olivas once more, then placed the ball accurately in the goal to round off a fine individual effort.
There was a penalty claim three minutes later, as Toni Villa won the ball from Muniain on the left flank and darted into the box before being felled by a somewhat agricultural challenge from Ander Capa, who careered into the midfielder from quite some distance to leave him sprawling in the box. The left-back was arguably not in control as he shoulder-barged Toni Villa to the ground, but the referee, Jesus Gil, signalled play to continue. The most Pucela could offer in reply before the break was a weak header from Ünal from Míchel’s cross which was directed straight at Simón and Athletic went in at halftime with a goal advantage to show for their dominance.
A quiet start to the second half was almost rudely interrupted by a brief Real Valladolid counter-attack. Ünal and Óscar Plano combined, but the striker’s touch let him down at the crucial moment as he attempted to gather the return pass in the box and the ball trickled harmlessly out for a goal kick.
Muniain tested Masip from long range with a shot that the Athletic player put all his diminutive stature behind, but again the visiting goalkeeper flashed across goal to parry it away.
The match fell into a lull for the following ten minutes as both sides made personnel and tactical adjustments. The home side brought on Beñat for Córdoba who had struggled to recreate the energetic performance he had enjoyed in the first half. Pucela captain Javi Moyano relinquished the armband to Míchel as he made way for Jorge De Frutos for his first appearance in La Liga action, and Pedro Porro came on in place of Toni Villa to add some attacking impetus to the right flank. As is often the case in this situation, Óscar Plano switched to the left flank.
Completely out of the blue, Real Valladolid were back on level terms in calamitous circumstances for Simón in the 72nd minute. Nacho whipped in a cross from the left which went unopposed and the young keeper looked set to gather the ball cleanly. However, he managed to lose his grip on it and, as he did so, his momentum carried him forward and he appeared to push the ball onto the shoulder of defender Iñigo Martinez. The rebound headed back towards goal and, despite the contorting efforts of the keeper to turn and try to scoop it back, the ball nestled in the net for a heart-breaking equaliser.
Garitano turned to Aritz Aduriz, with the wily veteran replacing Unai López five minutes later. Anuar was exchanged for Sergi Guardiola as Sergio looked to have his team sit deeper and play for the point. Young midfielder Gaizka Larrazabal was flung into the fray with four minutes left for the home side in place of Raúl García who had been largely inconspicuous throughout.
There was almost a sting in the tail in the closing moments, as Muniain robbed Kiko Olivas in midfield and burst forward, determined to beat Masip. He sent in a curling effort, which scraped inches wide but, upon further inspection, it had been touched round the post by the very tip of Masip’s glove as the outstretched goalkeeper once again came to his side’s rescue. Beñat should have done better in the 93rd minute when he connected with a cross from the right but it was a lacklustre header straight at Masip which summed up the final quarter of their performance after beginning so brightly.
Real Valladolid will consider this as an unlikely point gained in a difficult venue and look to next week where they tackle Eibar in the familiar confines of their own José Zorrilla stadium.
Unai Simón; Mikel Balenziaga, Iñigo Martinez, Yeray Álvarez, Ander Capa; Unai López (Aritz Aduriz 77’), Dani García; Iñigo Córdoba (Beñat Exteberria 67’), Raúl García (Gaizka Larrazabal 86’), Iker Muniain; Iñaki Williams.
Subs unused: Iago Herrerin; Unai Nuñez; Oihan Sancet, Oscar De Marcos.
Jordi Masip; Nacho, Mohammed Salisu, Kiko Olivas, Javi Moyano (Jorge De Frutos 68’); Toni Villa (Pedro Porro 68’), Míchel, Joaquín, Óscar Plano; Sergi Guardiola (Anuar 85’), Enes Ünal.
Subs unused: Andriy Lunin; Fede Barba; Waldo; Stiven Plaza.
Cover image: La Liga