A fourth straight loss for Luca de la Torre and Celta Vigo kept relegation danger still sniffing around the corner, while Yunus Musah had a short, but eventful appearance in Valencia’s controversial win over Real Madrid.
Athletic Bilbao 2 – 1 Celta Vigo
Luca de la Torre was an early substitute for an injured teammate on Saturday, but could not prevent Celta from falling to yet another defeat, this time on the road at European hopefuls Athletic Bilbao.
The game started out poorly for the visitors, as Inaki Williams put Bilbao ahead after five minutes, heading in a cross from deep in the right flank by Oscar de Marcos.
After starting central midfielder Fran Beltrán was forced off with an apparent hamstring injury, the USMNT midfielder entered the game as a 24th-minute substitute.
During his 66 minutes, he completed 91% of his 33 passing attempts, won his only tackle and two of his five duels, was successful on his only attempted dribble and hit his lone long-ball attempt accurately, however did not attempt any shots or directly set up any chances, although he was not without a positive influence.
Celta equalized five minutes after the break, with de la Torre playing a role in the setup. He received the ball at 30 yards out from Javi Galán, evaded a pair of Bilbao defenders to reach the edge of the box, before slipping the ball out wide to Miguel Rodriguez.
The 20 year-old Spanish youth international chipped a cross towards the penalty spot, where Jørgen Strand Larsen was able to target the left corner with a towering header.
This lasted for all of four minutes, with the hosts quickly netting the winner. After a couple of near misses in front of the Celta goal, Alex Berenguer received the ball on the left side of the area, made his turn and targeted the far right side of goal to give his team the 2-1 lead.
Ten minutes later, de la Torre received his fifth yellow of the season for unnecessarily tripping up Iker Muniain in the midfield.
A four-point gap with three games left would normally give the team some measure of security, however riding a four-game losing streak and facing champions Barcelona in the final game, the pressure is on to take something from their next two.
They face Girona on Tuesday in a game which will see de la Torre suspended, then visit Cadiz on Sunday in a potential relegation six-pointer.
Yunus Musah was a garbage-time substitute for Valencia on Sunday evening, as a surprise 1-0 home victory over Real Madrid extended their safety gap to five points with three games left to play. Musah still managed to pick up a yellow card during his short time on the field, his ninth of the season, meaning he will be suspended for Thursday’s game at Mallorca.
The end of the game was marred by a late brawl when Madrid players Antonion Rüdiger and Vinicius Júnior took exception to perceived delaying tactics from Musah following a late free kick, which eventually led to the Brazilian receiving a red card. Madrid have also filed a hate-crime complaint with Spanish prosecutors after the Brazilian was the target of racist chants from sections of Valencia fans during the game.
Jonathan Gomez was busy scoring goals for the US U-20 squad in Argentina, and was not present for Real Sociedad’s shock 2-1 road win over Barcelona on Saturday. The result puts them on the cusp of Champions League qualification, having a five-point lead over fifth-place Villarreal with three games left to go.
Samuel Shashoua is still recovering from an injury and did not take part in Tenerife’s 2-1 win over Burgos CF on Saturday night in La Liga 2 action.
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