It was beautiful in its way. Maybe its the final hurrah as the clock ticks down and the doors close for the last time. It was if they had stepped back in time to a happier time, last season, when they dazzled and passed their way into people’s hearts and cup finals. After a disappointing campaign, the Athletic players finally gave the old girl something that she could be proud of, a performance and sadly it may be her final one as San Mamés will close at the end of the season.
The rock that should have been their foundation stone to build something great quickly became the cliff from which they would fall off. It has gone all wrong for the mighty Lions of Bilbao. It seems as though Iker Munian, crying after losing the Copa, knew that a storm was coming. On Sunday they had a brief moment of sunshine and did they enjoy it. The in-form team of the league, Atlético, were made look so average that some fans were wondering had Manzano returned in disguise. It was Athletic that made Los Rojiblancos this way and got revenge for the Europa League defeat in May, last year. They were superb and they won this game with hard work and style.
How quick some were to come out and say the Atleti were different without Falcao but Falcao did play this game, just it was over 12 months ago when Bielsa and Co. destroyed El Tigre and his team-mates 3-0. It looked like Los Rojiblancos had learned nothing and all the improvement since that night in November had gone. Manzano was on the bench that night, Llorente wasn’t. On a week that it was announced that Fernando Llorente had signed for Juventus on a free transfer, it seemed that things would only get worse but a team that is coached by a man who is proud to call himself El Loco, don’t do anything by the book. They were simply fantastic and as they turned back time for themselves, they appeared to do so for Atlético too.
A team that was solid in defence and passionate on the pitch, looked lost and bored. There was no fight, no cojones and no hombres on display Sunday night. The example of how far Simeone’s men have to go to be considered genuine title contenders can be seen in the third goal when San José, a defender, managed to go unmarked and score. Yet, Atleti were lucky, they should have conceded much more.
Courtois was fantastic and Bielsa may feel that his side should have scored more. It seems more than likely that the Coach will walk this summer. This time last year he was being touted as a possible successor for Pep but a year is a long time in football. Maybe it was losing two finals, maybe it was losing Javi Martinez and the fallout with Llorente or maybe it was punching a builder, although in his defence anyone who has ever done construction work in Spain has come close to punching their builder, but the shine has gone. This was the last season at San Mamés and the club was supposed to reach for the stars, instead they are out of both the Europa League and the Copa del Rey and are sitting 13th, nine points from a Europa League spot.
There is still much to play for and Ander Herrera will have given fans hope after a fantastic display. With Valencia, Real Madrid and Barcelona still to come, maybe the players can turn it on again and give this fine stadium the send off it truly deserves.
Around the Grounds
Lopez was signed but Real Madrid went with Adan. At half time it was scoreless but then Ramos got things moving and throw in a Ronaldo hat trick and it was a good day for Los Blancos who could go home, have lunch and watch Barca as they prepare for their Copa del Rey clash.
Speaking about Barca, they destroyed poor Osasuna. Messi had a decent day by scoring four goals. He kicked off events but then Osasuna pegged one back to make it one all although the goal was a little suspect. Then the king got another 3 and Pedro decided to get one for luck. Barca keep getting stronger, should be an interesting tie against Real Madrid.
Valencia and Deportivo held nothing back as they played out a cracking 2-3 game. Two red cards for Depor and a last-minute goal from Ricardo Costa took fans mind’s off the recent off the field problems.
Celta and La Real drew one all but La Real could have taken it in the 2nd half. Levante beat Valladolid with an own goal from Rukavina. Zaragoza and Espanyol played out a goal less draw as Aguirre continues to grind out points.
It was beautiful and it could be one of the goals of the season. Rayo v Betis is always tense but Rayo took this game in their stride. Their 2nd goal was a work of class with Galvez winning the ball with some fancy footwork and then Chori controlling and with some nifty moves setting up a cross for Delibasic to head home. Málaga also aiming for 4th beat Mallorca away and time is running out for Caparrós. Sevilla hammered Granada, who too may be changing Coach soon.