Late comeback win for Valencia in Bilbao
Valencia strengthened their grip on third place in the Spanish Liga on Sunday with a 2-1 comeback win at Athletic Bilbao, with late goals from Juan Mata and Jonas, dpa reported.
Unai Emery's team, who seem to specialize in late wins, now have 51 points from 25 games. This is four more than fourth-placed Villarreal, who could only draw 2-2 at Racing Santander earlier on Sunday.
Valencia are 10 points behind second-placed Real Madrid, who were held 0-0 at Deportivo Coruna on Saturday. Real are seven points behind leaders Barcelona, who won 3-0 at Mallorca on Saturday.
Spain striker Fernando Llorente had given Bilbao the lead in the 14th minute with a left-foot shot on the turn, after taking a pass from Gaizka Toquero.
Valencia had young goalkeeper Vicente Guaita to thank for keeping the score down to 1-0. The visitors gradually came out of their shell towards the end, and 18 minutes from time Mata made it 1-1 by turning in a centre from Joaquin with his left foot.
Valencia sensed that the three points were there for the taking and piled forward. Nine minutes from time Bilbao keeper Gorka Iraizoz failed to hold a shot from Tino Costa, and Brazilian newboy Jonas turned in the rebound to make it 2-1.
"We showed a wonderful spirit tonight," said Costa, "against very difficult opponents. They dominated for most of the game, but we knew that we would have our chances."
Earlier on Sunday, Villarreal had only managed a late draw in Santander, thanks to an injury-time equalizer from Nilmar. The yellows have picked up just two points from their last four matches.
Villarreal are seven points above fifth-placed Espanyol, who thrashed Real Sociedad 4-1 on Saturday. Espanyol, in turn, are two points above Bilbao.
Sunday brought little change at the bottom of the table as a game between Malaga and Almeria is scheduled for Monday.
Malaga have 20 points, Almeria 21. On 24 points are Zaragoza, who drew 0-0 at Sporting Gijon on Saturday. Gijon have 25 points, the same as Osasuna, who lost 2-1 to lively Levante on Sunday.
Sixth from bottom, on 26 points, are Hercules, who drew 0-0 with Getafe on Sunday. Then come Deportivo and Levante on 27 points.
No sooner will the 25th round of games finish - with Malaga against Almeria on Monday - then the 26th round will begin, on Tuesday, with Espanyol facing Mallorca and Sevilla taking on Gijon.
On Wednesday Barcelona are away to Valencia, on Thursday Real Madrid receive Malaga.