First Division - Day 18

Deportivo La Coruña 2 - Athletic Bilbao 1

Deportivo: Juanmi; Héctor, César, Donato, Romero; Víctor (Toro Acuña 68'), Sergio, Duscher, Amavisca (Fran 52'); Makaay, Diego Tristán (Luque 55'). 4-4-2.
Athletic: Aranzubia; Javi González, Lacruz, Karanka, Oskar Vales, Del Horno; Gurpegui, Alkiza, Yeste (Arriaga 87'); Joseba Etxeberría, Ezquerro (Tiko 80'). 5-3-2.

Team changes: Deportivo: Héctor, César, Amavisca for Scaloni, Naybet, Mauro Silva / Athletic: Oskar Vales, Yeste for Tiko, Urzaiz.

0-1. 48. Ezquerro. Shot from wide of left post which took deflection off Héctor.
1-1. 50. Donato. Came from behind to head Víctor free kick down past keeper.
2-1. 84. Karanka (own goal). Deflected ball into net from Luque inswinging corner.

Deportivo La Coruña struggled against Athletic Bilbao, but in the end ran out 2-1 winners to consolidate their fourth position in the table. It was a hard game though, with Heynckes putting out a defensive side with the clear intention of taking home a point from the Riazor stadium. The German manager lined up with a five man defence, and in the absence of the suspended Urzaiz, playing Etxeberría and Ezquerro up front. Depor were missing their captain and midfield general Mauro Silva, also suspended, and without him they found it almost impossible to unpick the gridlocked visiting defence. Their first attempt anywhere near target didn't come until the thirtieth minute, when Amavisca attempted a shot on the turn which didn't really come off, and their second came just before the break, when Héctor fired a long shot wide.

Athletic had held their own in the first half, with the extra man in defence allowing Javi Guerrero and Asier Del Horno to cause problems down the flanks. It was no surprise then when three minutes in to the second half they took the lead, Ezquerro beating Juanmi with a shot from left of goal which took a deflection off Héctor's boot. That woke Depor up though, and two minutes later they were level, veteran defender Donato becoming the first player in Spain over forty years old to score in a first division match when he headed Víctor's free kick down past the Bilbao keeper half his age, Aranzubia.

Irureta brought on Fran for his first appearance since recovering from an injury, and then introduced Luque for Diego Tristán. The young striker combined well with Makaay to shoot just wide soon after coming on, and Makaay himself went close to the target a few minutes later. But in the end it took an own goal from Karanka to win the game, the ex Real Madrid defender deflecting Luque's inswinging corner into the net under pressure from Héctor. The referee saved Karanka's blushes though by awarding the goal to Luque in his match report.

Depor can think themselves lucky though that they won this one, and Athletic go home with nothing, struggling now in fifteenth place just three points above the drop zone. The home side fans left the ground content, boosted as well by the return of keeper Molina to training after being cured of cancer, and he was given a standing ovation as he took his place in the stands to watch the game.