Athletic Bilbao 3-0 Atletico Madrid: Basques deal crushing blow to title hopes of visitors
Diego Simeone's men lose ground at the top of the table as they are comfortably defeated at San Mames
By Martin Macdonald
Athletic Bilbao moved up to 12th place in the Spanish Primera Division after a comprehensive 3-0 victory over a lacklustre Atletico Madrid on Sunday evening.
Diego Simeone’s men were attempting to keep pace at the top of the table and make up ground on leaders Barcelona, but strikes from Mikel San Jose, Oscar De Marcos, and Markel Susaeta sealed an extremely satisfying with for the Basque side.
The game started at a blistering pace, and the hosts should have opened the scoring after just two minutes. Aritz Aduriz received a pass from Andoni Iraola and laid the ball on for the onrushing De Marcos, but the 23-year-old blazed over from 12 yards.
It was then Filipe Luis who failed to register the opening goal. The Brazilian showed excellent determination to bulldoze his way into the opposition box and fire in a shot, but his deflected attempt crept by the right-hand post by inches.
The first half was an even affair, with both sides going forward in swashbuckling fashion in search of a goal, but it was the goalkeepers who were the stars of the show in the opening 45 minutes.
Thibaut Courtois was the first to deny the home side with a wonderful save. Susaeta found space on the right-hand side of the box and lashed a volley towards the bottom-left corner but the on-loan Chelsea stopper made an improvised save with his feet.
Gorka Iraizoz then arguably trumped the save of his counterpart when Diego Costa showed strength inside the area to brush off challenges before reversing a cross inside for Emre Belozoglu, who smashed a strike at goal, only for the Athletic goalkeeper to somehow make his way across and palm the ball away.
It wasn’t too long until the first goal came, though, and it did so in the simplest of fashions. San Jose rose high in the penalty area and glanced in a corner kick to give Los Leones the lead.
The visitors continued to probe for their first goal, but an in-form Iraizoz continued to foil their attempts. Shortly after the hour mark the Atheltic keeper turned round a powerful Raul Garcia strike that looked destined to nestle inside the bottom-right corner.
Atletico’s passionate pursuit of an equaliser eventually proved to be their undoing, however. The capital club paid the price for committing too many men forward when Ander Herrera claimed possession in midfield, and threaded a superb pass through the middle for Susaeta, who remained composed to find the bottom corner with a left-footed shot.
A bad day at the office for Simeone’s outfit was made worse six minutes from time when the Marcelo Bielsa’s side extended their lead. A pacey counterattack saw Aduriz pick out De Marcos at the back post, who lashed the ball into the roof of the net for his second goal of the match.
This victory sees Athletic rise up to 12th in the league, while the defeat for Atletico means the 11-point gap between themselves and Barcelona at the top of the table is restored.
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