A brace from Fernando Llorente set in-form Athletic Bilbao up for a 3-0 win over a dejected Atletico Madrid, whose goal drought continued on Thursday.
Athletic started the season slowly, but they have now fully adapted to coach Marcelo Bielsa’s attacking system and are going from strength to strength. Atletico, meanwhile, have not won in seven matches during which time they have scored just twice.
The home side controlled the game, but Atletico had moments of danger on the counterattack, with Radamel Falcao, bought for 40 million euros from Porto in the summer, having an early shot which was well-saved.
For Athletic, Iker Muniain was a constant danger with his pace and determined runs, while Llorente was denied before the break by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Oscar de Marcos saw a header go past the post when he should have scored, but Llorente made the breakthrough after 68 minutes, although he had more than a stroke of luck as his shot took a deflection off Filipe Luis. He found the back of the net again minutes later with a powerful header and then substitute Gaizka Toquero added a third, also with his head.
A header from substitute Walter Pandiani gave RCD Espanyol a 1-0 victory over struggling Real Betis Balompie, who have now lost their last five games on the trot.
Espanyol moved up to sixth with their third consecutive triumph, while the alarm bells are ringing at Betis, who won their first four matches of the campaign, but have lost every game since.
It was match of fine saves and poor finishing, and it appeared to be heading for a stalemate until Pandiani’s introduction made the difference.
In the first half, Benat Etxebarria had a shot from distance for Betis which was well saved by goalkeeper Cristian Alvarez, while at the other end Javi Marquez and Joan Verdu also went close.
Alvaro Vazquez though was guilty of fluffing several chances in both halves, before he was replaced by Pandiani, who headed Espanyol to victory with 16 minutes to go.
“We don’t have time to be distracted and we need to keep working rather than start looking at where we are in the table. This was a big win for us, but we need to concentrate on correcting various aspects of our performance,” RCD Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino said.
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The Chicago Blackhawks and the Montreal Canadiens, with the fewest wins of any NHL playoff teams, ignited the rink returning from a COVID-19 hiatus with upset triumphs in Saturday openers. NHL Rookie of the Year candidate Dominik Kubalik inspired the Blackhawks to a 6-4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in game one of their best-of-five qualifying series at Edmonton, Alberta, scoring two goals and assisting on three others. “We were ready to go, and I think the game was pretty good,” Kubalik said. “I felt pretty good and everything went my way, so it’s nice, but it’s just the first game,