The old blanket theory came back to the scene yesterday in Balaídos. Athletic, with Marcelino tired of receiving goals from one game to another, placed special emphasis on keeping Unai Simón’s goal at zero and placed less emphasis on the attacking side. The lions, in other words, covered their feet; but they left their heads uncovered.
There were phases of this meeting in Vigo in which it seemed that it was a containment exercise of those that coaches usually work with a greater number of forwards compared to a rear with one and sometimes up to two elements less. The lions, in other words, planted their two lines of four very close to their own area and swung from band to band trying to block any access path to their frame. Cloudet’s men became desperate at times.
The second part of this plan, yes, it came out at the blackboard level, but not in the green. This intensive withdrawal had to be accompanied with a certain frequency by a series of counterattacks. There the rojiblancos, however, were not so in tune. The work of the Peruvian Tapia undercover in the second plays prevented them from going out more frequently and in much more danger.
Everything in this game was reduced, therefore, to simple and not so simple dances against the rival frame. Unai Simón hardly had to intervene. Iván Villar, the celestial goal, only with a couple of good volley hands from Villalibre and a poisoned center from Lekue. Little more.
The leap that both contenders needed to get closer to Europe was left half. The fear of losing prevailed at the grass level at times. It took the lions too long to decide to go and find the opposite goal with more determination and a greater number of players.
Marcelino had already warned of his intentions on Saturday in Lezama. I was going to make changes. Many changes. This time it was five. De Marcos, Yuri, Vesga, Muniain and Williams remained on the bench. Lekue, Balenziaga, Dani García, Morcillo and Villalibre, on the other hand, were part of the eleven.
The rojiblancos allowed a Celta with four new faces to take the initiative compared to their previous league commitment in Huesca. All his heavy artillery, yes, was on the field. Contrary to that of Athletic.
Villalibre was the first to break the hostilities with a tremendous volley well resolved by the local goal. Santi Mina then had a pair of shots in front of Unai Simón’s goal. Berenguer, however, had the best chance of the game, but did not narrowly finish off a center from Villalibre himself.
Marcelino, aware of the situation, took advantage of the break to withdraw Raúl García, well supported by the rivals, to put Muniain in his place and in his position. Tapia did not care because he remained firm in his work as a recuperator.
Athletic’s offensive baggage in this second half was limited to mere fireworks. The celestial ones, on the other hand, lived a long time near the rival area, but without ideas or resources to penetrate it. This time they lacked even the inspiration of Iago Aspas.
Marcelino turned to Vencedor and Williams, then to De Marcos and finally to Ibai. The lions did then take a decided step forward. Too late, too late. The European options via the League are fading. The own goal was this time to zero, but the other’s too. In bad time.