Athletic Bilbao ended a run of four successive league losses with a vital 2-0 home win over European rivals Sevilla at San Mames on today. A disastrous own goal from Argentine centre-back Federico Fazio on 66 minutes put Bilbao ahead before Andoni Iraola converted an 88th minute penalty after French defender Julien Escude committed a needless foul.
Bilbao moved a point above Espanyol, who lost 1-0 at promoted Levante into fifth place. Sevilla, fourth last season, trail Bilbao by three points along with Atletico Madrid as a host of teams tussle for a top six finish in La Liga.
Sevilla coach Gregorio Manzano had warned of the threat from Bilbao's striker Fernando Llorente and the Spain international almost scored in the fifth minute with goalkeeper Javi Varas stopping his header with a fine save. Varas was then called upon to stop a header from Javi Martinez on 23 minutes as hosts Bilbao started the stronger.
It was a physical encounter between two of the biggest sides in the Spanish top-flight and Llorente was marshalled by the towering Fazio. Llorente lost his marker to head wide on 38 minutes and was visibly annoyed with himself for missing the chance.
Sevilla almost broke the deadlock early in the second half when a Jesus Navas cross was headed just wide by Freddy Kanoute.
It took a mistake after 66 minutes to decide the game with Fazio getting his feet in a tangle as he tried to clear a whipped-in cross from the left and the Argentine deflected the ball into his own net. Bilbao's second goal came off a reckless tackle from Escude in the penalty area two minutes from time and Iraola struck the penalty to clinch the points.
Earlier Almeria moved off the bottom of the first division with two goals in three minutes sealing a comeback 2-1 win at relegation rivals Hercules.
Promoted Hercules had taken the lead on 50 minutes through Abraham Paz but French substitute Sofiane Feghouli equalised in the 69th minute and Cameroon midfielder Modeste Mbami struck three minutes later to secure a vital win. Almeria move off the foot of the table, two points from safety, while Hercules drop into the bottom three.
Malaga now prop up the table after a late 1-0 home loss to fellow strugglers Osasuna. Sergio Gonzalez scored a stoppage time winner to lift Osasuna three points above the relegation zone, while Malaga are four points from safety.
Sporting Gijon moved out of the bottom three with a 2-0 home win over Getafe on Sunday. First half goals from Miguel de las Cuevas and Andre Castro clinched an important victory for Gijon who move two points above the relegation zone.
Real Madrid are in action later today as they travel to Racing Santander trying to close the ten point gap on league leaders Barcelona.