Coach Valverde delighted after Athletic end 31-year title drought

Barcelona, Aug 18 (IANS) Athletic Club Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde was delighted after leading his club to their first title in 31 years as Athletic lifted the Spanish Super Cup in brilliant fashion against FC Barcelona.

A 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou stadium on Monday night, coupled with a 4-0 thrashing in Bilbao three days earlier gave Athletic the Super Cup and made Valverde the first Athletic coach to lead his side to a title since Javier Clemente won a league and cup double in 1984, reports Xinhua.

“At long last, a trophy – which we all deserve,” said Valverde in the early hours of Tuesday after the game.

“We know what Athletic means and we know how much this means to our supporters.”

Athletic are a unique football club, as they only use players born or raised in the Basque region and the coach believes that allows them to dig deep and find unity in moments of need.

“The most important thing about my team is their solidarity and their refusal to throw in the towel. That’s one of the demands we have at Athletic. Sometimes we do it better or worse but we never give in,” he insisted.

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique meanwhile saw how his chance of leading his team to six titles in a year has now disappeared, but he congratulated Athletic for their win, saying they had “played a great game.”

“We did what we set out to do, generate doubts and fear in our opponents. We didn’t have the best of luck, for example Gerard (Pique) hitting the bar but we played well,” he commented.

Pique was sent off for insulting a linesman 10 minutes into the second half after which the coach considered the game was effectively “over”.

Finally, Enrique looked ahead to the start of the new season where they will defend their Spanish league, Spanish Cup and Champions League titles.

“It will be closely fought, but we have to be optimistic,” he said.

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