Back in 1994, Athletic Bilbao played their first ever competitive match at St James’ Park.
It was a single goal victory that night, Newcastle charging into a three goal lead in the 56th minute, only to then concede twice late on to blunt the ‘Mexican Waves’ that were heading around St James’ Park. Those late goals proving crucial in the second leg.
On Saturday, Newcastle raced into a two goal on 54 minutes and whilst Athletic Bilbao pulled one back ten minutes later, United managed to hang on despite intense late pressure, meaning they go into the new season on he back of two very credible victories.
Very interesting to see what they thought about the match from the Athletic Bilbao perspective.
Though maybe even more illuminating to hear what the Athletic Bilbao hierarchy had to say about their trip overall…
Athletic Bilbao club message:
‘Thank you, Newcastle, for being a little more red and white than usual yesterday.
Beautiful city, amazing people and great football atmosphere.
Many thanks to Newcastle United and all their fans for the great reception at St. James’ Park!
Great game and great atmosphere in the stadium!
Best of luck during the season.
Athletic falls against Newcastle by the minimum.
The lions improved in the last part of the match, but the reaction did not prevent the first red-and-white defeat in this preseason.’
Manager Ernesto Valverde:
“It was a very good test, with a great atmosphere”
“We went from less to more. The second half was ours and we could have gotten a better result”
Goalkeeper Ander Iruarrizaga:
“The team dominated the end of the match and we had options to even win it”
“Living these games is incredible”
Match report on Athletic Bilbao website:
‘Athletic Club were beaten 2-1 by Newcastle United at St. James’ Park. The home team are further along in their preparations but the Lions were the much better side in the second half, with Newcastle barely getting a touch of the ball in the last 30 minutes.
Raúl García scored Athletic’s only goal of the encounter and almost got equaliser with a shot that hit the post. But there were a handful of other chances for Los Rojiblancos to secure a deserved draw.
A physically imposing Newcastle, cheered on by 46,000 spectators, came out strongly and took the lead through Callum Wilson’s powerful opener. Iñaki Williams had then had an opportunity to level after being played through by Alex Berenguer, but the striker couldn’t find the target.
Oscar de Marcos also had a long-range effort, but the Lions big chance of the first half came from a counter-attack between Berenguer and Williams, the no.9 firing into the side-netting when a one-on-one with Dubravka.
Allan Saint-Maximin’s goal in the 53rd minute aside, Athletic were much improved in the second half. Substitutes Oihan Sancet and Oier Zarraga controlled the midfield, while Iñaki Williams was dangerous when moved to the wing.
Athletic’s chances kept piling up and in the 64th minute Raúl García made the pressure count, scoring his second goal of the pre-season with a towering header from an Iñaki cross.
A succession of goalscoring opportunities followed. Iñaki went close again, a shot from Berenguer skimmed the top corner, a Zarraga effort which had Dubravka scrambling and Raúl hitting the post… If it had been an official match, we might have been pulling our hair out.
An evening of hard work which will stand the Lions in good stead when they return to Bilbao, and a proper test against a team with major ambitition in the Premier League.
Head coach Ernesto Valverde now has the team where he wants it. There was plenty of energy and skill on display, with decent competition for places in the starting XI.’
Newcastle 2 Athletic Bilbao 1
Wilson 5, ASM 54
Newcastle team v Athletic Bilbao:
Dubravka, Krafth, Lascellles, Botman, Dummett (Bondswell 70), Bruno (Matty Longstaff 89), Joelinton, Willock, Ritchie, ASM (De Bolle 89), Wilson (Munoz 90)
Gillespie, Stephenson, Turner-Cooke, A.Murphy, Miley
Attendance – 46,856
(Eddie Howe answers this very vocal minority of Newcastle United fans – Read HERE)
(Match Report : Newcastle 2 Athletic Bilbao 1 – Plenty of positives – Read HERE)