Striker Pablo Osvaldo scored one goal and set up another to give Espanyol a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao on Monday in La Liga.
Espanyol dominated early and Osvaldo capitalized by firing home his 11th goal of the season via the left post in the 35th minute, only to see Markel Susaeta curl a free-kick around the wall to equalize for Bilbao two minutes before halftime.
Fernando Llorente came on for Bilbao after the break, but Espanyol continued to create chances until forward Ivan Alonso tapped in a low cross from Osvaldo at the far post in the 76th minute to reclaim the lead for good.
“Espanyol pressured us a lot and hurt us with their strategy of playing long balls up the pitch,” Bilbao coach Joaquin Caparros said. “The fight for Europe is going to be neck-and-neck down the stretch.”
Espanyol’s first win in six games kept their bid for a Europa League spot alive as they drew to within three points of seventh-placed Bilbao with four rounds to play.
“The team will put all its energy toward achieving a place in Europe,” said Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino, who extended his contract with the club until 2014 on Sunday.
Barcelona can clinch their third straight La Liga crown next week if they beat Espanyol at the Camp Nou and Real Madrid fail to win at Sevilla.
At the bottom of the table, Almeria are on the brink of relegation, with Hercules five points and Getafe one point from safety.