Athletic Bilboa failed to hold onto their lead as they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid at the San Mamés Stadium in a La Liga encounter on Saturday evening.
The hosts took the lead after just six minutes but were struck by a goal in each half by the title chasers, while Aymeric Laporte was sent off in the closing minutes of the match.
Having seen Sevilla surprisingly suffer a defeat to Celta Vigo, it was up to Athletic Bilboa to secure a win in order to move nine points clear in fourth place.
And they couldn’t have asked for a better start if they wanted to, cracking the deadlock after just six minutes. Iker Muniain latched on to a clever pass and found the back of the net with a brilliant chip shot goal form outside the penalty area.
But there lead was taken away from them on 22 minutes after Koke showed some great vision to send a pass to Diego Costa. The 25-year-old showed great composure inside the box to bury the ball into the bottom right corner.
It was so nearly 2-1 for the home side a quarter of an hour later but Markel Susaeta was found guilty of wasting a golden opportunity from inside the 6-yard box. He pounced on a rebound to head the ball just wide of the right post.
Fortunes were reverse at the restart when Koke did well to meet a cross inside the box to stick a perfect header low inside the right post.
Aritz Aduriz created some space for himself inside the goal-mouth, striking an accurate header which would have ended under the bar, but Thibault Courtois pulled off a superb reflex save to keep Madrid in the lead.
Bilboa could have snatched a point in the final ten minutes. A brilliant cross into the box found Aritz Aduriz, who directed his header towards the roof of the net, only to see the goalkeeper make a fine reflex save.
To make matters worse, Bilboa were reduced to ten men in the final moments of the match after Aymeric Laporte was booked for a second offence.
Other results: Celta Vigo-Sevilla (1-0)
Sevilla’s hopes of a Champions League berth suffered a set-back as they fell to a 1-0 defeat to Celta Vigo.
The home side came into the match with a purpose, as they were six points away from robbing Athletic Bilbao of their Champions League spot, and were hoping to pounce on Celta’s poor home form.
It was a rather dreary affair in the early stages of the encounter and it saw the half end in a goalless affair.
Celta literally snatched the victory at the death of the encounter after Fazio was whistled for a handball inside the box. Nolito fired in the game winning shot with three minutes to go, converting from 11 meters.