Aritz Aduriz hit a first-half double as Athletic Bilbao kept their Champions League ambitions on track with a 2-1 victory at Levante UD, who only came to life after the break.
Athletic are fourth on 59 points in Spain’s final UEFA Champions League spot, six points ahead of Sevilla, who thumped RCD Espanyol 4-1 over the weekend, and nine ahead of sixth-placed Real Sociedad, who were humiliated 4-0 at home by Real Madrid on Saturday.
The Basque side responded well to their defeat by Atletico Madrid in their last match, starting the game at a high tempo and cutting the Levante defense open in the early stages at the Estadio Ciutat de valencia.
A sloppy challenge from Juanfran on Iker Muniain earned Athletic a penalty which Mikel San Jose sent wide, but the visitors were soon ahead anyway.
A shot from Aduriz from the edge of the area deflected off Levante defender Simao Mate, wrong-footing Keylor Navas before going into the corner.
It was a lackluster display from mid-table Levante and on the point of halftime, Aduriz netted his 13th goal of the season as he headed home an Ander Herrera cross.
After the restart Levante had more impetus, but could only pull one goal back with a Ruben Garcia cross hitting San Jose and looping over ’keeper Gorka Iraizoz and into the net.
“At the end, they were pushing forward and we were sitting back more,” Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde told reporters.
“Having gone ahead we were going close, but not scoring and then they got one back, which made it difficult for us. From now on, it will be a fight until the final game and we are up against strong rivals [for a Champions League place] like Sevilla and Real [Sociedad],” Valverde added.
The three-way battle at the top of La Liga remains fierce, with Real three points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who beat Villarreal 1-0 on Saturday and have 79 points.
Second-placed Barcelona are on 78 points following their 3-1 victory over bottom side Real Betis Balompie, while los Blancos are hot on their heels with 76.