Athletic Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz scored one goal and set up another in a 3-1 win over Espanyol at San Mames Stadium on Friday.
Aritz Aduriz headed the Basques in front just before the half-hour mark and then moments before the break Borja Viguera combined with the striker to score his first goal for Athletic.
Article continues below ...
Ander Iturraspe’s second-half strike was the standout goal of the game, while Victor Sanchez managed a consolation effort for the visitors.
Athletic look to have recovered from their dreadful start to the season and have now won three of their last four games, but Espanyol are on a downward spiral, failing to win any of their last five matches.
The hosts welcomed back top scorer Aduriz to the side following a hamstring injury and the 33-year-old proved his worth to the team by breaking the deadlock, heading Markel Susaeta’s corner towards goal, although it took a helpful deflection off Christian Stuani on its way in.
The frontman then showed his more skilful side to help Athletic double their advantage. He intercepted the ball on the halfway line and burst forward, evading challenges and then slipping a pass between two Espanyol defenders and into the path of Viguera, who poked home first time.
Espanyol have not managed to win away from home all season and showed little fight after going behind, although Salva Sevilla and Stuani both came close to pulling a goal back, the former hitting a post and the latter striking just wide from range.
Athletic fully put the game out of Espanyol’s sight with 12 minutes left.
Mikel Rico’s stylish flick released Iturraspe 30 yards from goal and with plenty of space. The midfielder is not known for his shooting ability but conjured up the most wonderful of strikes, curling the ball in off the post with the outside of his right boot.
Sanchez rammed the ball in from close range for Espanyol in the 83rd minute but there was never any danger of Athletic letting their lead slip, and in the closing stages Viguera almost scored a goal to rival Iturraspe’s screamer, controlling the ball on his thigh but volleying just a fraction wide of the top corner.