September 2011 Review – We’re good away, just not at home.
It looks like it will be a tricky month as Bilbao go away to some tough teams in September. We start off with a really tough game, as we go away to Espanyol. They have a good team and we will do well to get something there – we then have our first Europa League game as we go away to Panathinaikos, again which could be very tricky. We then host Real Betis in a game we should be winning, before we go away again to cash-fuelled Malaga, who are starting to build a decent game. We then host Villarreal, again another hard game, before we finish the month with a much easier game at home to Slovan Bratislava in the EL. My predictions for this month are;
L D W D D W
Bilbao struck in the last minute of injury time to claim a fantastic win over Espanyol, winning 2-1. Espanyol started better and took the lead after just 4 minutes, Alvaro cooly slotting in from 15 yards after the ball kindly fell to him. Espanyol were having more possession but their finishing was letting them down, and Bilbao equalised 10 minutes into the second half – sub Jon Aurtenetxe, on for the injured Javier Garrido, received the ball 20 yards out from Benat and struck a sweet strike across the keeper and into the back of the net, a cracking goal for your first for the club, especially for a 19 year old LB. Bilbao won it deep into stoppage time as Iker Muniain swung a corner in, and Borja Ekiza rose to head in at the back post for his first of the season, sending the Bilbao crowd wild.
Bilbao kicked off their Europa League Group with an excellent start as they beat Greek side Panathinaikos 2-0 in Athens, with both sides finishing with 10 men. Bilbao had a chance to take the lead after just half an hour, Fernando Llorente turning Ninis before being tripped by the Greek international – a silly penalty to give away, and the Spanish international Llorente stood up and finished cooly from 12 yards. Just 52 seconds into the second half though and Bilbao were done to 10 men – Captain Andoni Iraola, already booked in the first half, booked again for a clumsy challenge and Bilbao had to play a half with a man less. But with the man disadvantage Bilbao didn’t look worried, and doubled their lead with 15 minutes left, Iker Muniain curling his shot into the bottom right hand corner from the edge of the area. Panathinaikos had no reply and then themselves went down to 10 men as Andreas Mouratidis was also shown a second yellow card in the final minute of normal time.
Bilbao were left extremely frustrated as some poor finishing left them with a 0-0 draw at home to Real Betis. Bilbao had 52% possession and had double the amount of shots Betis had, but could get less than half of their shots on target and couldn’t find the back of the net. 2 points poorly dropped by Bilbao.
Fernando Llorente missed a penalty but still managed to get a hattrick as Bilbao thumped Malaga 3-0 at the La Rosaleda in probably their best performance of the season so far. Bilbao completely dominated the game and took the lead after just 6 minutes, Fernando Llorente with a beautiful strike from 20 yards that flew into the roof of the net. Bilbao were struggling to double their lead, but were presented with a chance after an hour as Weligton tripped Iker Muniain in the box – Fernando Llorente stepped up having already scored one penalty this season, and put it horrifically wide. Malaga though couldn’t find an equaliser and Bilbao went on and doubled their lead in the first minute of stoppage time, Herrera playing in Llorente and he cooly slotted the ball under the GK to give the Bilbao the 3 points. But Llorente wasn’t done there as 3 minutes later he raced to the near post and tapped in Igor Martinez’s cross to get his hattrick.
Bilbao were beaten for the first time this season as they slumped to a 2-1 home defeat to Villarreal, despite dominating the game. Villarreal took just 6 minutes to open the scoring, Marcos Senna sliding the ball to Cani, who cooly slotting the ball past Iraizoz. Bilbao managed to equalise though 2 minutes into the second half, and it was another stunning goal by Markel Susaeta – the Spanish winger curled a beautiful free kick from 25 yards out up-and-over the wall and into the back of the net. But Villarreal won it on the hour as Javier Camunas’ strike from the edge of the area struck Benat and went in, giving Iraizoz no chance.
Bilbao scored twice in stoppage time at the end of the game to avoid an embarrassing draw with Slovakian side Slovan Bratislava, winning 2-0 at the San Marnes. After another game which Bilbao were dominating, they were struggling to find a goal – Bratislava were sitting back and were delighted to take a point until the final minute of normal time – sub Igor Martinez made an excellent run down the wing and his low cross found Fernando Llorente, who somehow managed to bundle the ball in. Bilbao went and then got a second 3 minutes later with Bratislava searching for a late equaliser, MOTM Llorente storming down the wing before crossing and finding sub Carlos Gurpegi, who tapped in to score his first goal of the season.
So there we have it, a fairly successful month. Fantastic away wins against Panathinaikos, Malaga & Espanyol were marred with disappointing performances against Villarreal & Real Betis, and nearly against Slovan Bratislava. But we do sit 3rd in La Liga, which I’m delighted about, and I hope we can stay around there throughout the season. Here is the league table after September;
Next month we continue our league campaign with an away game at Valencia amongst others, as well as a Europa League game against Palermo and start our Spanish Cup campaign.