Athletic Bilbao earn impressive win over Atletico

AFP , Saturday 16 Dec 2023

Athletic Bilbao powered to a convincing 2-0 victory over a flat Atletico Madrid on Saturday in La Liga to close the gap on the top four.

Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid s Argentinian midfielder #05 Rodrigo De Paul (L) and Atletico Madrid s Dutch forward #09 Memphis Depay react to their defeat at the end of the Spanish league football match between Athletic Club Bilbao and Club Atletico de Madrid at the San Mames stadium in Bilbao on December 16, 2023. AFP

 

Ernesto Valverde's side, fifth, moved within two points of champions Barcelona, fourth, who visit Valencia later on, and third-place Atletico.

Gorka Guruzeta and Nico Williams struck second-half goals to deservedly secure the points for the intense Basques who dominated at a jubilant San Mames.

Athletic drove Diego Simeone's visitors back in the first half, testing Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak on multiple occasions.

The Slovenian made a superb save low at his near post to deny Guruzeta early on, and another to block Nico Williams' effort after he broke through on the left.

Oblak was saved by the frame of his goal on two occasions, with both brothers Inaki and Nico Williams striking the woodwork.

Athletic's best chance of the first half came from the penalty spot but Oihan Sancet smashed high and wide after Caglar Soyuncu felled Nico Williams.

Athletic got the breakthrough they deserved quickly at the start of the second half, with Ander Herrera crossing to the back post, where Guruzeta was unmarked to finish with ease.

Inaki Williams, making his 400th appearance for Athletic, was instrumental in the build-up and continued his own fine form, even though he did not find the net.

Nico Williams added a stunning second when he made space on the right side of the area and bent a shot over Oblak into the far top corner with his weaker left foot.

Athletic's second goal spurred Atletico into life, with Samuel Lino and Marcos Llorente threatening, but they could not pull the visitors back into the match.

Xavi Hernandez's struggling Barcelona could overtake Atletico if they do not lose against Valencia at the Mestalla.

Leaders Girona host Alaves on Monday, while second-place Real Madrid welcome Villarreal on Sunday.

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