Villarreal suffered a major blow as Athletic Bilbao blew the race for Europe wide open in a heated victory at Estadio de la Ceramica on Monday evening.
Inigo Cordoba got the early goal in a well worked move which gave them the lead only four minutes into the encounter. Inaki Williams’ perfectly timed run allowed him to round Sergio Asenjo and cut back to Cordoba, whose volley found its way into the corner of the net.
There was a scare minutes later as Villarreal were forced into an early change when Pablo Fornals collapsed to the ground in pain off the ball, though he recovered and was able to walk off the pitch after receiving medical attention.
Mikel Susaeta was the next Athletic man to go close, hitting the crossbar with what initially appeared to be a cross, but the visitors looked comfortable with even a one goal lead heading into the break.
The Basque side began the second period equally as impressively, with Williams’ smart backheel setting up Raul Garcia, and when Sergio Asenjo denied the ex-Atleti man, Williams was on hand to tap home the rebound and double his team’s lead.
Carlos Bacca pulled one back in controversial fashion as Athletic weakly appealed for a foul as the Colombian raced away and poked the ball beyond Kepa to reignite Villarreal hopes.
Such hopes were extinguished as Iker Munain scored his first goal of the season after a serious knee injury by bursting in at the far post to get his toes onto the ball before Asenjo.
There was to be another twist as Alvaro saw red in the closing stages, picking up a second yellow for applauding the linesman for giving an offside call moments after Munain’s strike proved controversial, despite being correctly allowed.
Frustration spilled over for the Yellow Submarine and Jaume Costa even grappled his own physio on the touchline after a head injury, but the main consequence of this result is that Villarreal now face a fight to keep their Europa League spot.
Villarreal: Asenjo; Rukavina, Bonera (Torres, ‘46), Alvaro, Costa; Fuego, Trigueros (Cheryshev, ‘61), Rodri, Fornals (Soriano, ‘9); Unal, Bacca.
Athletic Bilbao: Kepa; De Marcos, Nunez, Martinez, Balenziaga (Lekue, ‘62); San Jose, Iturraspe, Susaeta (Muniain, ‘76), Raul Garcia, Cordoba (Rico, ‘90); Williams.
Goals: Cordoba (0-1, ‘4), Williams (0-2, ‘51), Bacca (1-2, ‘67), Muniain (1-3, ‘87)
Yellow cards: Bonera (VIL, ‘38), Martinez (ATB, ‘41), Bacca (VIL, ‘45), Nunez (ATB, ‘45), Alvaro (VIL, ‘64), Iturraspe (ATB, ‘67), Kepa (ATB, ‘74), De Marcos (ATB, ‘81), Asenjo (VIL, ‘87)
Red card: Alvaro (VIL, ‘89)