BILBAO, Spain – Athletic Bilbao and Valencia played to a 1-1 draw Wednesday night, a result that was a disappointing one for both teams as they jockey for position in the Spanish-league standings.
The hosts got off to a fast start at San Mames Stadium and created four early chances, including one shot by Mikel San Jose that Brazilian net minder Neto saved and a blast off the foot of Markel Susaeta that Geoffrey Kondogbia deflected away.
But on its first chance, it was Valencia that struck first in the 23rd minute when Kondogbia scored on a perfectly placed left-footed shot from just outside the penalty arc.
Athletic, however, shrugged off the setback and had a golden chance to tie the contest when Susaeta earned a penalty on some light contact in the area.
Aritz Aduriz took the shot from the 12-yard mark, but Neto guessed right and corralled the ball to preserve his team’s 1-0 lead.
The equalizer, however, came just four minutes into the second half from virtually the same spot where Kondogbia had scored.
On the play, Oscar de Marcos bounced a shot off of his lower leg that found its way past several defenders and snuck in just inside the right upright.
Scoring chances then ensued rapid-fire on both sides of the field, with Athletic net minder Kepa Arrizabalaga stopping one shot by Simone Zaza before Neto denied a chance by Susaeta off a cross from De Marcos.
With time winding down, Athletic threatened to score on a powerful blast by Aduriz that hit the outside of the goal, while Valencia’s Jose Luis Gaya went down in the area but did not earn a penalty.
The draw was of little benefit to either side, as Valencia missed a chance to jump back in front of Real Madrid – and into third place – in the La Liga standings and Athletic lost ground to Eibar in the crowded race for a spot in next season’s Europa League.
With Eibar’s 1-0 win Wednesday over Villarreal, it now is in seventh place with 38 points, six more than Athletic (12th place) with a dozen games left in the La Liga season.