Athletic Bilbao missed a chance to tighten their grip on Spain’s fourth Champions League qualification spot when they were forced to come from behind to rescue a 1-1 draw at 10-man Villarreal in their La Liga encounter on Monday.
Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo saved Aritz Aduriz’s 40th-minute penalty at El Madrigal, before teenager Oliver Torres slipped the ball across the goal for Tomas Pina to fire the home side ahead two minutes into the second half.
The match turned when Villarreal defender Gabriel earned a second yellow and was sent off in the 66th minute. Then, with seven minutes left, Aduriz atoned for his penalty miss with a fine headed equalizer.
With 10 games left, Bilbao have 52 points in fourth, six ahead of Basque rivals Real Sociedad, who are fifth on 46 points thanks to Sunday’s 1-0 win at home to Valencia.
Promoted Villarreal, who have impressed on their return to the top flight, have 45 points in sixth, one ahead of seventh-placed Sevilla.
“The penalty was a bit of a blow, but we managed to regroup after their goal and get the draw,” Aduriz said in an interview with Spanish broadcaster Cuatro. “We started to dominate towards the end and we are more or less satisfied. There is still a long way to go and we have to take things step by step.”
Villarreal midfielder Torres, on loan from Atletico Madrid, told Cuatro: “The penalty save gave us a bit of a boost and we came out strongly in the second half.”
“We managed to get ahead on the scoreboard but the sending off changed things and you really notice when you have a man less against such a good team,” the 19-year-old added.
Real Madrid are three clear at the top of La Liga on 70 points, while Atletico are second on 67 and champions Barcelona, who visit the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday, are a point further back in third.