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Athletic Club 0-3 Villarreal: a sweet win!

And our first ever in the new San Mamés.

Girona v Villarreal - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Nearly 40,000 fans turned up at San Mamés to see Athletic Bilbao take on Villarreal, and for one of the few times in recent years, most of them went away unhappy.

The first half was much like that against Valencia— had more shots, but not so many on target. At the break it was 0-0, and the Basque side, admittedly missing Aduriz and Dani Garcia, hadn’t done much to trouble Sergio asenjo in goal, apart from him needing treatment early on from a blow to the mouth.

HT Athletic Club 0-0 Villarreal

Maybe some of us were upset with Bacca’s withdrawal on Sunday, but Toko Ekambi coming on for him on the hour mark didn’t seem a bad idea. And he did create the pressure that resulted in the ball coming loose to Fornals five minutes later. But really.

Fornals, who we’ve all been lambasting for his lack of shooting skill, had two choices: either play a through ball to Gerard Moreno, timing his run to get behind the Bilbao defender, or try an ambitious 40-yard half-volley, recognizing the keeper was shaded toward his right post. Fornals tried the latter. And of course it angled PERFECTLY into the net.

Villarreal added a second from a Santi Cazorla cross, wonderfully headed home by Funes Mori, rising majestically high above the defender. It was almost as if we were making up for failure to covert good chances by scoring world-class goals instead!

And a third came on 89 minutes, when Fornals, in his own half, played a ball that Toko Ekambi ran onto and beat the defender for pace, rounded Simón and had an easy tap-in into an empty net.

FT Athletic Club 0-3 Villarreal

Our first win in Bilbao for seven and a half years, and a victory that will bring a smile to coach Calleja’s face for sure. Posession was the home side’s (65:35, and we were called for 14 fouls compared to 2!!) but when it came to dangerous opportunities, we were way ahead. And most importantly, we converted them.

MOTM: Fornals, Toko Ekambi, Funes Mori.