Late Martinez strike salvages Bilbao point
A Javi Martinez header deep into added time gave Athletic Bilbao a dramatic point away to Malaga in La Liga this evening.
Martin Demichelis headed the hosts in front ten minutes from time from a corner and that looked to be enough to give Malaga all three points. But the Argentina defender fouled Fernando Llorente two minutes into added time to hand Athletic one more chance to take something from the game.
Goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz went forward in a desperate attempt to grab a late leveller, but it was Martinez who rose to meet Igor Gabilondo's delivery and smash a powerful header past Sergio Asenjo.
Asenjo was making his league debut for Malaga, along with Demichelis, Ignacio Camacho and Enzo Maresca, who have all arrived at the club in the transfer window. Malaga were unable to field Julio Baptista, though, with the Brazil midfielder's transfer from Roma not yet fully completed.
Malaga began the day just three points above the relegation zone, but the Andalusians won away at Sporting Gijon last weekend and are making good progress under Manuel Pellegrini. Athletic, meanwhile, were just two points off the top six, despite having lost at home to Deportivo La Coruna in their last league match.
Both sides were knocked out of the Copa del Rey in midweek and looked tired in the first half. Malaga were marginally the better side in a disappointing encounter, with Duda and Apono both coming close in the opening period. But Asenjo made an excellent save at the other end to deny Iker Muniain shortly after the break.
The game only really sparked into life in the final quarter of an hour, however, and Sebastian Fernandez was left to rue a missed opportunity with two minutes left which would have sealed all three points for Malaga. The Uruguay striker blasted his effort over the bar and Martinez took advantage shortly afterwards to secure a stalemate.