Saludos! and welcome once again to the beautiful port of Bilbao for another week with the Basque Boys. Things seem to be coming good at the right time, we’re 3rd in the league, and in the semi finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup and Copa Del Rey, and that’s where we begin this week’s action…
We face Betis, who’ve knocked out Deportivo and Osasuna on their route to this match. It’s 1-1 at half time after Etxebe finds his scoring boots to cancel out Kennet Andersson’s early opener. The 2nd half is a repeat, and with Betis having twice as many shots at goal as us, but a draw with 2 away goals isn’t a bad result. Finidi George suffered a broken leg in the match, so we wish the legendary Nigerian a speedy recovery.
Back to the league, and a trip to 8th-placed Zaragoza follows. It’s a good 1st half, but we can’t put any of our 12 shots at goal away and it’s goalless at the break. I’m normally celebrating when Perez scores, but not on this occasion as his own goal gives Zaragoza the lead and Rubén Blaya delivers the sucker punch 12 minutes later. The board quite rightly say very poor result and we slip to 4th.
García Juncal Diezma, another one of our regens gets a Spain under-21 call-up, and the board finally let me list him for loan, so hopefully he can go and get some regular minutes somewhere.
Time for the 2nd leg of our Cup-Winners’ Cup semi with Aston Villa, where we hold a 1-0 aggregate lead. It’s a solid 1st half performance and we’re 2-0 up at the break as Perez atones for his own goal last match. A similar 2nd half follows, with Ezquerro wrapping it up late on. It’s another £250k in the bank and a place in the final where we’ll face Napoli, who came back from 2-1 down after the 1st leg to beat Marseille 4-2 on aggregate to book their final berth.
Our 3rd away game in 4 weeks is at Tenerife, who are 14th in the table. Very rarely does Bixente Lizarazu get a mention, but today is his day as he scores his 1st goal of the season and his 2nd ever for the Basque Boys. His strike turns out to be the only goal of the game and it gets us back on track with 3 points.
Back to the cup, and the 2nd leg with Real Betis. We have the upper hand with 2 away goals after the 1st leg, so any win or a 0-0 or 1-1 draw will see us into to the final. It’s a promising start with Tabuenka giving us the lead, but Kennet Andersson, who seems to like scoring against us levels just before half time. We’re controlling the game, but take our feet off the gas on the hour, conceding twice in a minute and we never recover. The board say very poor result, which is a bit unfair on Betis, who will play Valencia in the final.
As if playing them twice in the space of a fortnight wasn’t enough, we now face Betis again in the league, in the 1st of 4 big games that will make or break our season. Despite a poor start, it’s level at half time but we have squandered plenty of chances. The 2nd half brings only more frustration as Betis keeper Santi Cañizares puts in a performance reminiscent of the one by West Ham’s Ludek Miklosko that cost Man Utd the title in 1995. One point is better than none I guess.
It’s a busy week for us, and just 2 days later we travel to Atletico Madrid, who we had an entertaining 3-3 draw with last time we met. Although it’s 1-1 after a quarter of an hour, the rest of the match is quite frankly a horror show and were it not for our keeper, many more of Atleti’s 27 shots at goal could have found the net and Rui Costa could even afford to miss a late penalty. It would appear that our hoodoo over Atleti has been well and truly broken.
We round off this week by welcoming Valencia who are level on points with us, so we could do with a win to move us up a place. Goals haven’t been in plentiful supply of late, so I switch to the trusty 2-3-1-2-2, and it seems to do the trick as Laslandes, who missed the last match through suspension gives us a half time lead. Valencia equalise right after the restart through Jorge Cadete but Laslandes gets his 2nd with 15 minutes left. It was an even match in terms of chances, but a it’s valuable win for us against a side who beat us earlier in the season.
So there ends another week, and we’re now 4th. Real Sociedad are 4 points clear of us but we do have a game in hand on them, and they play Barcelona on the final day of the season, so 3rd place is still very much achievable for us.
Join us for the season finale next week, as we face Deportivo before our first european final against Napoli followed by games against Oviedo, Mallorca and Espanyol to finish the season off. Until next time, amigos!