ATHLETIC v ARSENAL
Play-Off Leg 2
Starting XI - Iraizoz; Iraola, Laporte, Gurpegi, Aurtenetxe; Beñat, Itturaspe, Susaeta, De Marcos, Muniain; Aduriz
Bench - San Jose, Balenziaga, Moran, Rico, Gomez, Etxeita, Viguera
Starting XI - Martínez; Debuchy, Koscielny, Chambers, Gibbs; Flamini, Wilshere, Sanchez, Arteta, Cazorla; Welbeck
Bench - Szczesny, Monreal, Özil, Giroud, Podolski, Bellerín, Oxlade-Chamberlain
After defeat to Arsenal in the first leg off their Champions League Play-Off game, Athletic had it all to do in the second leg, however, this time they were the home time and the Bilbao fans had packed the stadium out to hopefully help push their team on. The atmosphere was building to see how Quique Flores' first competitive home game would pan out.
Arsenal made two changes to the team that started at The Emirates. Young Englishman Calum Chambers replace Per Mertesacker at the back and Lukas Podolski was demoted to the bench with Flamini taking his place. Athletic also made two changes with Flores deciding to start Aurtenetxe over Belenziaga and starting Ander Itturaspe after his return from injury.
From Kick-Off it was clear to see that Athletic were determined to bring the game back and they dominated the game in the early parts of the game. Aduriz put the Basque side 1-0 up in the fifth minute with a powerful header over Martinez from a Susaeta cross. This put Athletic back on level terms on aggregate, however they were also leading on away-goals.
The game carried on with Athletic keeping the ball in their midfield and not letting Arsenal put a meaningful spell together. They knew that, if they gave Arsenal a chance, they would probably take it and that would put Athletic on the back foot. One way of stopping this from happening was to keep hold of the ball, as they were doing, however another way of stopping a possible comeback was to grab another goal and this is what they managed to achieve just before half-time. Aduriz ran on to a well-placed through ball from Oscar De Marcos and made no mistake in placing the ball past Martinez and into the far corner.
Arsenal came out after half-time with a bit more fight in them, knowing that they needed to score 2 more goals if they were to stay in the competition. They started off the half with a few decent attacks, however Athletic's defence remained solid and kept Arsenal from getting any good efforts away on-goal. However, Arsenal pushed and pushed until Danny Welbeck hit a superb shot from just outside the box, but Iraizoz came out of nowhere with a flying save to stop the ball powering into the bottom corner.
Arsenal could not get the goal they needed and were punished in the 80th minute when Aritz Aduriz completed his hat-trick and confirmed Athletic's place in the Group Stage. Ibai Gomez had just came on when he was asked to take a free-kick from a very wide position. He whipped the ball across the box and Aduriz turned the ball into the net before jumping over the advertising boards and celebrating with the delighted crowd.
The roof lifted off at full-time as the players walked round the pitch to celebrate the comeback with their fans. "I now know what my players are capable off, they are a really great bunch to be around and I am so glad to be here. Spirits will be high after this, however we need to concentrate on up-and-coming games. There shall be no time for celebrations."