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Referees do not determine results: The Athletic Bilbao defeat

A contest we should have won.

Athletic Club v Villarreal CF - La Liga Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

I hate VAR. I hate the decision VAR somehow managed to make against Pau Torres. I don’t take anyone seriously who thought that was a penalty. Frankly, I thought the second penalty given to Athletic was a bad call too, and I thought we had a valid penalty shout of our own late in the match. Frankly, Capa should have been shown red for his ridiculous challenge on Santi Cazorla and Raul Garcia should have been carded once each for diving and complaining. The officiating in this contest was abysmal, shambolic, embarrassing to the entire league...

But it’s not why we lost.

Failure to create our own opportunities

In sports, it is easy to look bad on a badly officiating game and see the one call that fundamentally changed the score at a crucial juncture and assume that ‘cost’ the other side the game. Unfortunately, that’s rarely, if ever, the actual case. Take this match for example. According to, the non penalty xG for this game was 1.25-0.73 in favor of Athletic Club. That means that based on our goal scoring chances we should be expected to have less than a goal in that match. Don’t like xG? No trouble, we attempted 10 shots on the night, only three were on target, and two of those were outside the box. (fbref and understat)

How much of a chance did we really give ourselves to score a goal?

Defensive lapses

You may be thinking to yourself, ‘okay, we didn’t deserve to score, but that match still would have been 0-0 if we had not been ripped off with the refereeing’. Perhaps, but again ignoring the fact that we gave up more than 1 xG (because I know some folks aren’t sold on that stuff). Think about the four shots Athletic got on target. All four of them were inside the box, and the shots by Raul Garcia in the 65’ and Ander Capa in the 82’ were far and away better than any chances we had all night (coincidentally they both came from nearly the same spot.

We must be better.

Folks, we lost to an Athletic team that hadn’t won in ten games. We’ve lost to bottom of the table Espanyol recently, a second tier team knocked us out of the cup. We are trending in the wrong direction as a squad as I covered extensively after the Atletico loss last week, here. Adding Paco Alcacer has not made the team better, and I don’t blame the player for that because when he’s had service he’s made good things happen. I think we’re looking at a manager who is out of ideas and who has been figured out by this league. Frankly, if we don’t win at least our next three, but probably our next four matches we can kiss Europa league play for next season goodbye. The offense is getting worse, the defense is healthy but still prone to giving up big chances, we are a team without ideas.

Be angry with the refs, I sure am, but understand that bad officiating is not the primary reason why we had an awful day on Sunday.