Five intrepid Wilkie Tourists arrived back from a footie fiesta in the Basque country having enjoyed four games over three days.
First up on the Saturday evening was a visit to the impressive San Mames stadium opened in 2013 adjacent to the old stadium which was visited by Wilkie Tours a decade ago. Tickets for front row seats behind the goal (30 Euros face value) were secured online prior to the trip for the game against an unbeaten Sevilla side with ex Premier League players Samir Nasri (on loan from Man City) and Steven Nzonzi (ex Stoke). The 53,000 capacity stadium looked full at kick-off but the published attendance was 42,000. Athletic Club Bilbao took the lead in the first-half when San Jose (ex-Liverpool) stabbed home. Nasri equalised in the second-half only for left-back Balenziaga to net his first goal for the club to regain the lead. With Sevilla pressing for a second equaliser Italian keeper Sirigu (on loan fro PSG) elbowed Aduriz in the back after collecting a cross and was sent off, Aduriz duly slotted the resulting penalty past sub keeper midfielder Iborra (all 3 Sevilla subs had already been used). The atmosphere was amazing (as it was on the previous visit) as the all-Basque team were fervently supported throughout by the locals.
On the Sunday two games in the Biscay region were reached on the efficient metro service from Bilbao. The first was a morning kick-off at Portugalete, near the Transporter Bridge (Vizcaya Bridge), at the 4,000 capacity Estadion La Florida against CD Aurrera de Ondarroa in Group 4 of the regional Tercera (4th level) division. Tickets were purchased for 13 Euros, most of the crowd took shelter in the one covered stand running the length of the pitch behind the dugouts. The home side played some entertaining football and maintained their unbeaten record with a 2-1 victory. The second was a Segunda B (3rd level) Group 2 game, a local derby between Barakaldo and Sestao River. Tickets for the all-seater stadium were 10 Euros. The 8,000 capacity Estadio Nuevo Lasesarre, which was opened in 2003, had a modern look. Interestingly both Portugalete and Barakaldo play in Black & Yellow striped shirts, which according to a Portugalete supporter we met on the way to the morning game was influenced by the colours worn by Penerol of Uruguay. The home side succumbed to an inevitable late equaliser after failing to increase their slender one goal lead from a first-half header, much to the delight of the travelling Pirates supporters.
The final game was on the Monday evening in Vittoria, an hour by coach from Bilbao, where newly promoted Alaves (Segunda champions) hosted perennial La Liga strugglers Granada at the 20,000 capacity Estadio de Mendizorroza. Tickets in the main stand were secured online prior to the trip (20 Euros). After a poor first-half the game came to life in the second much to the delight of the home crowd who had created a great atmosphere throughout. Alaves ran out deserved 3-1 winners in front of a 16,000 crowd.
Back in Bilbao we visited the 'Campa De Los Ingleses' bar overlooking the San Mames pitch and looked forward to the next two Wilkie Tours to Tuscany and to Porto.
Photos below in sequence of: Alaves, Barakaldo, Portugalete, Bilbao.