High-flying Bilbao sink Sevilla
Athletic Bilbao secured a deserved 2-1 win at Sevilla this evening. Marcelo Bielsa's side were by far the better team throughout and went ahead after only five minutes when captain Andoni Iraola smashed a great shot in off the post from 20 yards. Sevilla equalised before half-time as Jesus Navas produced just as good a finish as he latched on to Freddie Kanoute's flick.
However, the visitors continued to boss the game and they deservedly got the winner when Iker Muniain fed Oscar De Marcos, who saw his first effort blocked by Javi Varas before stroking home the rebound. Victory means Athletic move up to sixth and are now just one point and place behind Sevilla.
Much had been made prior to the match of Athletic's poor record at the Sanchez Pizjuan, a venue where they had not won for 18 years. But they made the perfect start as Alvaro Negredo could only clear Ander Herrera's free-kick to the edge of the area and Iraola struck the ball fiercely past Varas into the bottom right corner.
Sevilla had been able to welcome Kanoute and Negredo back into the starting line-up for the first time in several weeks and the former's presence was key to the equaliser. The Malian's clever header found Navas' run as he burst into the box and produced a wonderful right-footed finish across Gorka Iraizoz for his first goal of the season.
Yet Athletic were not knocked off their rhythm and had a number of chances to regain the lead before half-time. Fernando Navarro produced a brilliant saving challenge to stop Muniain from having a tap in, before Herrera saw a shot drift just wide after good hold-up play by Fernando Llorente.
Sevilla were struggling to contain the physical presence of Llorente and he should have scored on two occasions just after the hour. First he headed wide of the target and then, after Herrera's shot had been brilliantly cleared off the line by Emir Spahic, the Spanish international snatched the rebound but could only hit the side-netting.
Thankfully for Bielsa, all his side's good work did not go to waste as they finally got the winner 19 minutes from time. Muniain was again involved as his clever through ball released De Marcos inside the area, Varas blocked his first effort with his legs but the ball rebounded back to De Marcos and he was left with a simple tap-in from two yards.
Sevilla this time failed to produce any sort of response and could even have conceded a third in the final minute but Varas made a wonderful save to deny Muniain.