Athletic Bilbao beat Slaven Koprivnica 3-1 in a match which saw them dominate from the beginning. The teams must now hope for a repeat in their return match in Croatia.
Athletic: Iraizoz; Iraola, Ramalho (Ekiza, min.46), Gurpegi; Ibai Gómez (Llorente, min.46), Iturraspe, De Marcos, Íñigo Pérez; Toquero (Ruiz de Galarreta, min.63), Isma López; and Susaeta.
NK Slaven: Rodic; Puric, Kokalovic, Grgic, Bubnjic, Maras; Canadija, Batarelo, Rak (Pilipovic, min.81); Delic (Glavica, min.58) and Busic (Saban, min.52).
Goals: 1-0, min.15: Isma López. 1-1, min.18: Delic. 2-1, min.19: Susaeta. 3-1, min.67: Isma López.
Athletic Bilbao were on the right track in the Europa League qualifying round on Wednesday evening after a convincing victory against Slaven Koprivnica at San Mamés. Marcelo Bielsa’s men displayed superior play almost consistently throughout the match, though the Croats were able to get one goal past the home team’s defence.
The match started out at a frenetic pace. Athletic Bilbao’s Isma López, making his debut for the team, bagged the first goal of the match in the 15th minute.
Slaven, however, were not slow to react and in the 19th minute Delic took advantage of a mistake from the home side to draw even. But it took Athletic’s Susaeta just one minute to put his team ahead on 2-1.
Once Athletic pulled ahead the home side remained on the ball with Slaven posing little or no threat to Bilbao’s lead. On the contrary, debutant López scored his second goal of the match - and a third goal for Athletic - in the 67th minute.
The 3-1 score meant Athletic played with increased confidence. Two further attempts at goal came from Susaeta and Iraola in the 85th and 87th minutes, though in the intervening minute Slaven looked like making a dent in their rivals’ lead, with a strike from Gavica in the 86th.