Real Madrid dropped points for the first time this season after playing to a scintillating 1-1 draw with Athletic Club on Saturday night at the Estadio San Mames in Bilbao.Traditionally one of the most intense matches of the season in LaLiga, Saturday’s contest lived up to the hype and produced quite the spectacle over the course of 90 minutes. In the end, an Iker Muniain goal in the first half and an Isco header in the second resulted in a splitting of the points.
Thibaut Courtois stayed in net ahead of Keylor Navas, while manager Julen Lopetegui, opted for Dani Ceballos in midfield and Marco Asensio up top, meaning Casemiro and Isco started on the bench. Even before the seats could get warmed by the home supporters, Real had their first chance with a nice build-up from Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Luka Modric that ended with the Croatia international missing just wide.
It set the tone for a thrilling 90 minutes, with the two teams going back and forth at each other. The Basques had their chances as well, with Inaki Williams and Markel Susaeta providing much of the danger. Much of the home side’s attack came on Real’s left flank and from there came the game’s first goal shortly after the half-hour mark. Susaeta played a crafty ball into Oscar de Marcos, whose cross first hit Williams and then was finished off by Muniain to hand Athletic a 1-0 lead.
Real looked to strike back and a deflected Modric shot had the San Mames holding its breath, but Athletic No.1 Unai Simon did well to get low and save. Lopetegui sought to restore order to his midfield and brought on Casemiro for Dani Ceballos to start the second half. The level of play was just as intense in the second 45 minutes, and perhaps it took its toll on Muniain, who had to leave injured early in the half after playing a spectacular match up until that point.
A foul close to the Athletic area set up Bale for a good crack at goal via free kick and Unai Simon failed to hold onto the Welshman’s attempt, gifting a chance for Sergio Ramos, but the young goalkeeper again came through with a block to keep Real off the scoreboard. Lopetegui made his second change of the night with Isco replacing Modric and the impact was immediate, as Isco found space among a sea of Athletic defenders and headed in a Bale cross to bring Real level 1-1.
Neither side was going to be content with a draw, and so the chances kept coming for both. First it was Asensio getting stopped by Unai Simon after a perfectly weighted ball from Ramos, then at the other end both De Marcos and Williams failed to find the target.Lopetegui’s last chance came with a quarter-hour left, with Lucas Vazquez coming on for the ineffective Bale, but buoyed by their boisterous home supporters in Bilbao, Athletic held firm and pocketed a well-deserved point.
1.- Athletic Bilbao: Unai Simon; De Marcos, Yeray, Inigo Martinez, Yuri; Benat (Mikel Rico, min. 81), Dani Garcia, Muniain (Capa, min. 53); Susaeta, Raul Garcia, Williams (Mikel San Jose, min. 76).
1.- Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Ceballos (Casemiro, min. 46), Kroos, Modric (Isco, min. 61); Bale (Lucas Vazquez, min. 75), Benzema, Asensio.
Goals: 1-0, min. 32: Muniain; 1-1, min. 63: Isco
Referee: Gonzalez Gonzalez (Castilla y Leon). Yellow Cards: Yeray (Min. 45) for Athletic Bilbao, Dani Garcia (Min. 60) for Athletic Bilbao, Capa (Min. 68) for Athletic Bilbao, Yuri (Min. 72) for Athletic Bilbao, Benat (Min. 79) for Athletic Bilbao, Lucas Vazquez (Min. 87) for Real Madrid, Unai Simon (Min. 92) for Athletic Bilbao Red cards: None
Stadium: San Mames