Sports / Soccer

Athletic Club coach Valverde: We do things differently

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-08-28 19:40

Athletic Club coach Valverde: We do things differently

Athletic Bilbao's Iker Muniain, top, jumps over his fellow teammates after his team scored against SSC Napoli, during their Champions League playoff second leg soccer match, at San Mames stadium in Bilbao, northern Spain, Wednesday, Aug 27, 2014. Athletic Bilbao won 3-1. [Photo/IC]


MADRID -- "This is an example of how there is another way of competing, other values. Some teams have great players and we have something else."

Those were the thoughts of Athletic Club Bilbao coach, Ernesto Valverde, after seeing his side come back from a goal down against Italian side, Napoli to book their place in the lucrative group stage of the Champions League.

Two goals from Aritz Aduriz and one from Ibai Gomez saw Athletic fight back from a goal down to send their fans into ecstasy at the prospect of playing in the most important competition in Europe for 16 years.

As Valverde says, it is a triumph for another way of doing things as Athletic played a side containing eight players formed in their youth system and remaining true to their philosophy of playing only footballers either born or raised in the Basque region in the north of Spain and far south-west of France: something that ensures a special bond between the team and the supporters in Bilbao.

The excitement had been building up throughout Wednesday, with the tickets sold out over 48 hours before kick-off and the newly finished San Mames Stadium ready to welcome 53,000 fans for the first time in its history.

Athletic have not played in the group stage of the Champions League since 1998 and thousands of supporters were waiting at the team hotel to give the Athletic team bus a guard of honor to the ground.

The game kicked off amid a spectacular atmosphere and with no changes to the Athletic side which drew 1-1 in Naples a week previously, while the visitors included Belgian winger Mertins, who had been a handful after coming on as a substitute in the first leg.

Athletic had missed chances in the first half and were punished at the start of the second when Marek Hamsik punished a poor clearance, but Aduriz's poaching instincts overturned the score and Gomez's finish sealed a magnificent fightback.

"I thought it was harsh when we fell behind, but we relaxed after the equalizer. I don't know who we are going to get but we want to enjoy this and get as far as possible," added Valverde, who said that not only the fans had celebrated.

"The dressing room was a 'fiesta' and they deserve it. There were a lot of hugs in there," he commented, while Ibai Gomez was delighted to see the new ground work its old magic," San Mames never fails," he said.

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