Athletic’s Europa League pain


A tearful Ander Herrera summed up Athletic Bilbao’s devastation at losing the Europa League final 3-0 to Atletico Madrid in Bucharest.

“We’re devastated. I suppose with the passing of time we’ll see it differently, we’ll feel proud. But right now there’s only pain,” the 22-year-old midfielder told UEFA.com “The first goal did a lot of damage and after that we weren’t able to get ourselves back on track.”

Marcelo Bielsa’s team had an average age of just 24 and at times it appeared some had frozen in the opening stages of what was the biggest game of their short careers. Markel Susaeta told of Athletic’s failings during a first half in which Radamel Falcao’s two goals all but put an end to his side’s hopes of lifting the trophy.

“I think in the first half we didn’t play the football we’ve played all season,” explained the Spanish Under-21 international. “And the two great goals by Falcao, they really decided the game in their favour. We couldn’t find the right response. We had chances, but the ball didn’t want to go in. In the first period, if we had scored from our first chance, it would have been different.

“But in the end the game went a different way. You still have to appreciate the effort of the team – we tried to maintain our philosophy. Today it wasn’t to be but we’re laying the foundations so that soon we can win something. We have to pick ourselves up. We have the final of the Copa del Rey and have to give the fans something to cheer because they did not stop supporting us.” added Susaeta.

Teammate Andoni Iraola was of much the same opinion and knowing this was the first opportunity for the Basques to win a European trophy in 35 years only made things worse.

“The key was the start of the match,” insisted the 29-year-old, who has spent his entire career with Athletic. “We knew that if they got in front it would be difficult because they can sit back effectively and on the counter-attack have players who can unbalance you.

“We weren’t good and Falcao was decisive. I don’t know when an opportunity like this will happen to us again. To let it slip by is a shame.”

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