Ernesto Valverde spoke of his relief after Athletic Bilbao “suffered greatly” to overcome Marseille in the Europa League last 32 on Thursday.
Athletic went into their return leg against Marseille an away goal to the good but only confirmed their place in the round of 16 with a 1-1 draw, and the Coach was happy to have honoured club legend Rafael Iriondo, who passed away a day earlier, even if his side struggled to assert themselves.
“We wanted to give joy to our fans on a special day and devote [our performance] to Iriondo,” he said after the game.
“As I expected, we suffered greatly. I never thought it’d be easy, and we eliminated a team of high calibre.
“They’re a great team, very strong and quick on the break, and they came at us every time we lost the ball.
“We responded in the second half, getting into their box more often [coinciding with Sabin’s goal], before suffering again.
“We were misguided at times and more hasty than usual, but [our problems] are more a matter of not taking our chances.
“At Marseille, we played well, but [at San Mames] we started on the wrong footing but then bounced back and had the good sense to score
“Our opponents were first class and it wasn’t easy, so we’re very happy [about going through].
“We’ve also taken a step forward from a mental perspective, even if our schedule has been retightened.
“We must always follow our line of work, win or lose.”