Athletic beat Girona in new coach's debut

Bilbao (Spain), Dec 11: An Aritz Aduriz penalty in stoppage time gave Athletic Club a 1-0 victory over Girona in the home side's first match under new coach Gaizka Garitano.

The result here on Monday lifts Athletic Club to 14 points from 15 matches and while they remain in the LaLiga drop zone, safety is within reach. Girona, with 21 points, are ninth and still alive in the chase for Europa League spots, reports Efe.

The close score flattered Girona, who suffered throughout the contest in front of 34,000-plus at Bilbao's San Mames, where Athletic ended their winless streak at 13 with a complete performance that saw them outshoot the visitors 25-3.

If not for a stellar performance by Girona goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz, the hosts would have won with a big margin.

Iraizoz, who was Athletic's starting keeper for most of the decade he spent with the Bilbao club, made half-a-dozen key stops against his old team.

Three of those saves came inside the first 15 minutes, when he thwarted Iñaki Williams and denied Aduriz on two occasions.

Girona's first offensive sequence led to a goal by Cristhian Stuani, but the marker was called back for a hand ball after Prieto Iglesias consulted the video assistant referee.

The disallowed goal was followed by Girona's best spell of the first half, though Athletic didn't take long to reclaim the initiative.

Athletic continued to control the match in the second half, but Iraizoz likewise remained unbeatable and the visitors appeared to be waiting for the Basque squad to wear themselves out.

But the hosts never relented and Iraizoz needed help from the post to turn aside a thunderous header by Aduriz in the closing minutes of regulation.

And just as it seemed that Athletic's efforts would fall short, Girona's Jonas Ramalho committed a clear foul in the area against Iker Muniain and the referee pointed to the spot to set the stage for Aduriz's match-winner in the 91st minute.

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