|First Division - Day 4|
Athletic Bilbao 2 - Mallorca 1
Larrainzar, Roberto Rios, Oscar Vales, Del Horno (Lasa 70'); Urrutia, Orbaiz;
Yeste (Felipe 75'), Julen Guerrero, Ezquerro (Javi González 63');
Team changes: Bilbao: Rios, Del Horno, Urrutia, Yeste for Alkorta, Larrazábal, Alkiza, Joseba Etxeberria / Mallorca: Marcos, Finidi, Carlos for Francisco Soler, Carreras, Güiza.
Ismael Urzaiz sent out a message to José Antonio Camacho that he is back and raring to go. Urzaiz scored both goals and almost got a third in the end as Bilbao came back from a goal down to keep Mallorca firmly anchored to the bottom of the table. The striker has been recalled by Camacho to the Spanish squad for the two upcoming matches with Israel and Austria, and will be competing for a place alongside Raúl with new boy Catanha. All three of the current internationals in the side, Urzaiz, Julen Guerrero and Etxeberria, are holding down regular first team places with Txetxu Rojo, in contrast with the rotational scheme of last year's manager Luis Fernández, and this has helped them to figure strongly in Camacho's plans.
One of them will not however be available for the next two games, ever-present Joseba Etxeberria joining Alkorta, Larrazábal, Carlos García and Merino in the doctor's waiting room, and with Lacruz and Aranzubia still making their way back from Sydney, Rojo included two B team youngsters in his squad for this match, with Del Horno getting his first start at left back and Asensio on the substitutes' bench. Another of his young stars Yeste took the place of Etxeberria. Mallorca's manager Luis Aragonés is also desperately awaiting the return of two of his young forwards from Sydney, Cameroon striker Eto'o and Spain's Luque. With Biagini out for three months and Stankovic talking of a possible operation, Luis played Finidi forward with Carlos, with Marcos also coming in to the side.
Yeste gave Roa a fright in the opening minutes, with the Mallorca keeper turning his free kick round the post right from the start and then watching him put the ball over the bar from inside the goal area. Mallorca looked the better team from then on, and ten minutes from half time they took the lead after winning a corner when Lafuente saved from Finidi. The ball was cleared away, but Engonga, following up, volleyed the ball first time back past the Bilbao keeper. It was the Spanish international's first goal in over 100 games with Mallorca, and it gave the island team a lifeline. Just like shift workers, Bilbao woke up, but the visitors defenders went to sleep as Yeste floated a long free kick on to the head of Urzaiz a few minutes later for him to level the scores in an unmarked position.
The rain came down at half time, and Aragonés decided to bring on an extra defensive midifelder Armando in place of striker Carlos as conditions got worse (the San Mames stadium is a notorious mud-bath at times). Then Julen Guerrero and Urzaiz linked up for the striker to get behind the Mallorca defence and slot the ball over Roa. Mallorca brought on two forwards, taking off the limping Engonga, but by then they had lost control of the game with Rojo bringing on two fresh pairs of legs in defence. Urzaiz went close to his hat-trick with a lob that Roa just tipped over and then Nadal could have snatched a late equaliser with a shot that just went wide.
In the end a good result for Bilbao who move up to the top half of the table, and Rojo must be thankful that his four match ban from last season is now over and he can return to the trainer's bench. Bilbao and Mallorca should on paper do well in the league, with both unencumbered by European football (Mallorca were knocked out of the Intertoto cup). However Mallorca in particular have a lot to do, and Luis really needs a full squad to count on to start moving up the table. As Dean Martin said, waking up with a hangover, things can only get better from here on in.