Happy Friday! Here’s Nick and the Basque boys…
Hola compañeros gerentes! We’re back in Bilbao for another feast of Friday football. The Basque Boys currently sit in 4th place in La Liga, 2 points behind 3rd-placed Valencia, but 17 points behind Real Madrid in 2nd, so 3rd place is realistically the best we can hope for. Let us continue…
We begin with a visit from Sevilla, who after finishing 8th last year following promotion, are struggling in 18th currently. We start well and after a string of chances we take the lead on half an hour through Laslandes’ 24th league goal of the season. Sevilla have the better of the 2nd half, but it’s a repeat of the score the last time we played them.
We climb to 3rd place after Valencia lost to Real Oviedo, who definitely owe us a favour by now.
To Europe, and we face Norwegian outfit Rosenborg in the quarter finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup. We dominate the 1st half with 16 efforts at goal but only lead 1-0 at half time. We’re more clinical in the 2nd half and it’s 3-0 on the hour, but future Liverpool star, Vegard Heggem pulls one back for our opponents. I’m annoyed to concede an away goal but Guerrero’s late strike could prove valuable.
I’m pleased with how we’ve played against Real Madrid recently, and we go into this game with confidence. We shade the 1st half in terms of chances, but it’s goalless. Our patience is rewarded through Guerrero, only for Oli to level. We look to have won it after Guerrero’s 2nd goal, until Morientes and Oli strike late to give Real the lead, but skipper and super sub Alkorta spares our blushes.
I’m annoyed with the result but there is a silver lining as the board say good result, and Valencia lose to Sporting Gijon to leave us a point clear of them.
This week the random injury generator has selected Santi Ezquerro, a couple of weeks, and a chest injury…
Last time we faced 9th-placed Celta Vigo, we thrashed them 5-2, so my fingers are crossed for a similar feat at home. Bakayoko is starting to come good for them, and fires them ahead on a quarter of an hour. Guerrero equalises with his 4th goal in 3 games but Tiko, a basque boy with a growing reputation restores Celta’s lead for half time. I throw on Loinaz in the hope that he may change the game, and he does just that as he levels the match just before the hour, and scores a late winner to complete the turnaround.
Laslandes assisted 2 of our goals in that match, and he becomes the club’s record-holder for assists in a season with 20. It’s nice to see that he’s as selfless as he is ruthless. He now holds 2 club records and has only been a basque boy for 2 seasons, bien joué, Lil!
A nice little piece of news follows, as Palacios’ impressive club form for Córdoba earns him a Spain Under-21 call-up, which is great news for the next generation of basque boys.
Time for that 2nd leg with Rosenborg now, and we hold a 4-1 advantage from the 1st leg. The 1st half is about as even as it gets. We regain the lead 2 minutes into the 2nd half but the hosts deservedly equalise just past the hour. We withstand a late wave of attacks from the hosts and it finishes 2-2, which is enough to see us through.
So it’s another £250k in the bank, and we’ll face John Gregory’s Aston Villa in the semis, with Marseille and Napoli making up the rest of the last four.
Sporting Gijon held us to a 2-2 draw back in March, and they’re not doing too badly in 11th place, with 2 wins from their last 3 games. A goal in either half from Etxebe is enough to secure the points and we keep our 1st clean sheet in 5 games. Their red card helped and Larrainzar’s injury was a blow, but thankfully he’s only out for a week.
Valencia lose again, so it’s now Real Sociedad who are 3 points behind us in 4th place.
Barcelona have been as relentless as ever this season and are just the 21 points ahead of us, so surely they can let us have these 3 points can’t they? Although we keep them at bay for half an hour, it’s a typical knife-through-butter scenario that comes with playing Barca, and our 1st defeat in 11 games.
The last action of this week is our Cup Winners’ Cup semi final with Aston Villa. With villa in red and blue, our never-before-seen white 3rd kit gets its 1st outing of this blog. Laslandes gets the only goal of the game on half an hour, and although I’m pleased with the win and away goal, we should have scored a few more of our 20 shots on goal. Let’s just hope we don’t live to rue our wastefulness in the 2nd leg.
Marseille won by the same margin as us in the 1st leg of the other tie, beating Napoli 2-1.
We end this week slightly better off than how we began it, 3rd place in the league (albeit on goal difference), and in the semi finals of both a domestic and European cup.
Join us next week for both legs of our Copa Del Rey semi with Betis, the 2nd leg with Aston Villa, and a couple of big league games as the season reaches its climax. Adios!