In what is certainly the best game of this current Liga--and what will be a strong contender for game of the season down the road--Athletic Bilbao rallied back from a three-goal first half deficit against Real Betis, only to stumble and concede twice in the final ten minutes to lose 3-5. The game appeared dead long before Marcelo Bielsa's men began to come back, but despite the second-half heroics, Bilbao was just no match for Betis on a night when the teams combined to score eight goals.
Betis played an exciting, up-tempo game against Athletic, hitting the Basque side quickly and often on the counter with pace, and through the center for the midfield. Bilbao looked sloppy all evening, and it eventually cost them dearly, when, in the 6th minute Beñat robbed a loose ball in the center of the pitch, and fed Rubén Castro, who slotted it by keeper Iraizoz. The goals would just keep coming for Betis after that, with Jorge Molina netting twenty minutes later--off a fantastic counter attack--and Beñat adding his own after a bad clearance from the Athletic defense.
But the lions would come roaring back in the second half, clearly feeling energized, and with a stronger center of the field. They controlled the tempo early on, and didn't let Betis through: Bielsa had clearly expressed his desire to keep the center of the midfield tight, and it showed throughout the half. First, Aduriz, immediately upon coming onto the pitch for the second half, found De Marcos in full sprint towards the Andalusian goal. 1-3, but the game still seemed out of reach.
Then, San José scored. San Mamés was a madhouse. The entire place was furiously pushing their boys on. 2-3. It was happening. Minutes later, it did happen--but not before a very telling couple of Betis chances. San José blasted home another corner with his head, and the game was all tied up. San Mamés was rocking. It seemed like the whole place was going to come tumbling down.
The lions had done it.
But there was still 10 minutes. Betis playmaker Cañas, who had been brought on in the second half to reinforce the center, grabbed a ball in the midfield and sprinted towards the corner flag. He held up there just a second, as San Mamés was roaring, and slipped a ball back to Pozuelo, who slammed it past Iraizoz.
And then there was a huge roar. The stadium would not be denied. With eight minutes left, Athletic were going to try to do the unimaginable: come back again.
This time, it wasn't to be: four minutes later, Jonathan Pereira slipped a ball through the Athletic defense, and on to the running boot of Jorge Molina, who flipped it up and over a crushed-looking Iraizoz. 3-5.
San Mamés was silent, as people began to look for their belongings.