Athletic Club Bilbao 1-2 Espanyol: The San Mames fortress is breached by Espanyol
Espanyol became the first club to win in the new San Mames in La Liga play as they defeated Athletic Club Bilbao 2-1 on Sunday night as the Basques had to make due without Ander Iturraspe.
Athletic Club Bilbao hosted Espanyol Sunday night as the Basques looked to move seven points clear of the fourth spot in the La Liga table. But their Catalan rivals were all too aware of their chance to steal points at the San Mames.
The two sides were clearly evenly matched as the game began. Athletic looked to get the ball wide and attack from the wings, while Espanyol sought to take advantage of the midfield with the absence of Ander Iturraspe.
Espanyol’s defense would hold strong early on as they didn’t allow their hosts any space and closed down constantly. Athletic looked to press even higher up the pitch and it would soon cost them.
After only six minutes of action, Sergio Garcia would receive the ball on the edge of the box and beat his defenders. The striker would then slice his effort from a tight angle that somehow managed to sneak it’s way inside the far post to give the visitors the early 1-0 lead.
As the match progressed, Gorka Iraizoz would be forced to make several other big stops to keep Espanyol from doubling their lead. The absence of Iturraspe was clearly felt and the Catalans were afforded plenty of space to operate.
The Basque giants would get their chances in the first half. After 25 minutes, Aritz Aduriz managed to send a beautiful header at goal but saw his effort hit off of the post. Likewise, Mikel Rico also had a promising headed chance miraculously saved by Kiko Casilla.
Espanyol would have more chances later in the first half as David Lopez also saw his shot come off the post which could have given the visitors a 2-0 lead going into the break.
Eventually, the first half whistle blew with no changes in the score line and Athletic needing a major overhaul if they were going to mount yet another comeback at the San Mames.
Ernesto Valverde certainly must have said something to his players during the break, because Athletic Club came out in the second half with guns blazing.
After a few promising chances from Aduriz and Ibai Gomez went awry, the home side would get their equalizer. In the 56th minute Ibai sent in a wonderful curling free kick which found the head of captain Carlos Gurpegui who easily headed past Kiko Casilla.
With the score level at 1-1, it was anybody’s game. Athletic then went on the offensive looking to take the lead with new-found energy, but it would not be their day.
Only 10 minutes later Espanyol would take the lead. The Catalans were awarded a corner kick which found Colotto in the box. The Espanyol defender quickly put his effort at goal which beat Iraizoz and gave the visitors the 2-1 lead.
From that point on the home side was looking to equalize yet again. Valverde brought on Oscar de Marcos and Iker Muniain who had immediate impacts. Los Leones had several great chances near the end of the match, but the Espanyol defense held strong.
Tempers flared in the dying minutes when Aduriz received his second yellow card of the match after a questionable tackle and soon the final whistle sounded.
Espanyol took all three points being the first club to defeat Athletic in the new San Mames in La Liga play as the Catalans continue to work their way up the table. Despite the loss, Athletic remain in fourth place in the table with a four point lead over Villarreal.
Athletic Club Bilbao 1-2 Espanyol
Referee: Undiano Mallenco
Athletic Club Bilbao XI: Iraizoz, Iraola, Gurpegui, Laporte (46′), Balenziaga, Rico, San Jose, Ibai, Herrera (67′), Susaeta (74′), Aduriz
Goals: Gurpegui (56′)
Subs: Moran (46′), De Marcos (67′), Muniain (74′)
Yellow Cards: Aduriz (32′), Iraola (52′), Gurpegui (81′)
Red Cards: Aduriz (86′)
Espanyol XI: Casilla, J Lopez, Colotto, Moreno, Fuentes, Sanchez, D Lopez, Stuani, Abraham (62′), Simao (71′), Garcia (92′)
Goals: Garcia (6′), Colotto (65′)
Subs: Alex (62′), Pizzi (71′), Cordoba (92′)
Yellow Cards: D Lopez (48′), Colotto (52′)