Despite having two players sent off and missing a penalty, Athletic Bilbao defeated Almeria 1-0 thanks to star striker Fernando Llorente.
The tall Spain forward netted what turned out to be the only goal of the game in the 11th minute after Athletic had already spurned a great chance to take the lead when Mikel San Jose saw his penalty saved. Athletic were looking in control of the match but two dismissals left them needing to hold on for the final 21 minutes.
Lertxundi Koikili was the first to receive his marching orders on the stroke of half-time for a second booking and he was joined on the sidelines by fellow defender Xabier Castillo, who was shown a straight red for a professional foul in the 69th minute. However, despite their numerical advantage, fifth-bottom Almeria could not get back on level terms at San Mames as they slumped to their fourth defeat of the season.
Athletic, having been thumped 4-1 by Villarreal in their last match, would have been desperate for a good start to tonight's game and they might have been celebrating a fourth-minute lead after winning a penalty when Juanma Ortiz sent Carlos Gurpegi tumbling at a corner. However, San Jose's penalty was saved by Almeria goalkeeper Diego Alves diving to his right.
Athletic need not have worried about that miss, though, as seven minutes later they were ahead thanks to Llorente's eighth league goal of the season. Igor Gonzalez sent over a cross from the right and Llorente's volley from 10 yards out was too good for Alves, who got his hands to the ball but could not keep it out. The powerful Llorente sent a header just wide in the 41st minute as Athletic sought a second, but then the Basque side suffered a major setback when Koikili was sent off in first-half injury time for tugging the shirt of Almeria striker Leonardo Ulloa.
Despite that blow, the ten men of Athletic started the second half on top with Iker Muniain and Andoni Iraola both bringing decent saves out of Alves. Almeria, who have only won once in the Primera Division this season, gradually started to create problems for the home side though and Henok Goitom was denied by Gorka Iraizoz before Fabian Vargas headed in what he thought was the equaliser, only to have his celebrations cut short by an offside flag.
Almeria's cause was further helped in the 69th minute when Athletic substitute Castillo was dismissed for bringing down Goitom on the edge of the box, but the Andalusian side could not capitalise on having two extra men as they slumped to defeat.