Athletic Club played their first Basque Derby of the season on Sunday when they traveled to face off with Eibar at Ipurua. It was a tense match between two local rivals but a lone header from Aritz Aduriz was enough to lift the Lions to victory. Kuko Ziganda’s team won their first game of the La Liga campaign and now have four points in the league table. An international break will now keep Athletic out of action for two weeks but the Lions will go into it with their heads held high.
After a scoreless draw to open up the La Liga season, Athletic wanted to take three points against Eibar at Ipurua. With the international break just around the corner it was an important game and one that could set the tone for the month of September. From the start it was clear that Eibar were not going to give anything away easily. They attacked well down the wings and forced the Lions to defend more than they would have liked. Ander Capa constantly caused problems down the right wing but the defense held strong to protect the goal.
After a while Athletic began to work their way into more control of the game. Eibar’s energy and pressure started to wear off and the Lions took the advantage to push forward and keep more possession. As always, they were patient but still looking to take the game to their opponents. Iñaki Williams did well to put a spark into the team while the midfield pairing of Mikel Vesga and Mikel San Jose were strong at dictating the pace and control of the match. Before the break Athletic would finally have something to show for their efforts.
Just after half an hour of place Iñaki Williams would find space on the right wing and immediately saw Aritz Aduriz in the box. The winger whipped in a cross that found the striker right in front of goal for a header. Eibar’s keeper was able to get both hands on the shot, but not enough to keep the ball out of the back of the net. After a very tense and difficult start the Lions were ahead and could finally breathe. The halftime whistle eventually sounded but the home side was not going to give up that easily.
In the second half it was obvious that Eibar were desperate to level the score and try to take back control. They sent attackers up as often as they could which regularly left space at the back. Iñaki Williams, Aritz Aduriz, and Iker Muniain kept trying to utilize this space but the final ball eluded them many times. Meanwhile, every time the home side went on the offensive they looked dangerous. At one point a cross into the box found Kike all alone. He stretched out his leg to direct the ball at goal but somehow Kepa Arrizabalaga was able to react quick enough to parry the shot away.
Two more times Kepa was challenged and was able to come away with a huge save. The argument could be made that Eibar deserved to level the score at some point, but the Lezama product was on his game and did not let the ball past him. Despite all of their efforts Athletic was not able to double their lead and Eibar was not able to pull back level. The final whistle soon blew with the Lions having earned their first win of the La Liga season and taking a very valuable three points in the first Basque Derby of the new year.
Athletic Club XI: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Eneko Bóveda, Unai Nuñez, Aymeric Laporte, Enric Saborit, Mikel Vesga, Mikel San Jose, Iñigo Córdoba (Iker Muniain 66′), Raúl García, Iñaki Williams (Iñigo Lekue 80′), Aritz Aduriz