The word “friendly” book ends the title of the first international soccer match in Boise’s history.
But the temperament was far from friendly Saturday at the Basque Soccer Friendly at Albertsons Stadium.
While the game didn’t count toward any standings or tournaments for either team, the match represented a key tuneup for both Spain’s Athletic Bilbao and Mexico’s Club Tijuana.
It was the final preseason match for Tijuana, which begins its next Liga MX season July 25 under a new manager after collapsing and losing six of its last seven games to end last season.
And Athletic Bilbao starts its schedule for the UEFA Europa League, Europe’s second most prestigious club tournament, on July 30.
“We faced a great opponent, a well-prepared opponent,” Tijuana coach Rubén Omar Romano said. “It helps the young guys as well as the guys who started in the first half, the starters, to face such a well-trained and important and historic club.”
But the intensity remained far from an all-star exhibition. After Athletic scored twice early and Tijuana grew frustrated by repeated offside calls, the game grew more and more physical until a Tijuana player slid and tackled an Athletic player from behind in front of the Athletic bench, starting a scrum.
“Friendly games like this can be dangerous because since there are no sanctions, there are no consequences,” Athletic manager Ernesto Valverde said. “Players sometimes are a little bit more physical than they would be normally.”
Athletic lost starting striker Iñaki Williams to an injury early in the second half that will likely keep him out of the team’s first Europa games. But with younger substitutes coming on looking to prove their skills, not their tackles, the game cleaned up.