Athletic Bilbao threw the form book out of the window to beat Atletico Madrid 3-0 with goals from Mikel San Jose, Markel Susaeta and Oscar de Marcos at the San Mames stadium.
A fast paced opening period saw both sides go close to breaking the deadlock. First De Marcos blazed over when he should have scored after a nice lay off from Aritz Aduriz, and then Diego Costa was denied by some desperate goal keeping from Gorka Iraizoz, after a short back pass from Jon Aurtenetxe.
The game continued to ebb and flow, with Bilbao not looking like a team that have struggled for most of the season. They again came close to opening the scoring when a thunderous drive from San Jose sailed inches wide.
Athletic’s good work was almost undone on the stroke of halftime when Diego Costa headed across the goal for Emre Belozoglu whose volley was brilliantly turned away by Iraizoz .
After the break, San Jose opened the scoring for Athletic after he left unmarked to head in from a corner. It was no more than the home side’s play deserved and the goal came directly after Thibaut Courtois had produced a great stop to deny Susaeta at close range.
Tempers flared soon after the goal when Cristian Rodriquez made a nasty challenge on Borja Ekiza. Rodriquez was booked for the challenge and then a scuffle resulted in Diego Godin and Aduriz also seeing yellow.
Iraizoz kept his side in the lead with a brilliant save from Raul Garcia, diving down low and to his left as the team from Madrid went in search of the equaliser. The visitors were getting closer and closer to levelling the match as Athletic retreated deep into their own half looking to protect their lead.
The game was an end to end affair as Atletico searched for a goal to level the score, but left gaps through the middle of the park for the home side to exploit on the counter attack.
Susaeta took full advantage of that space opening up for the hosts when he drilled a low shot past Courtois, after a fine through ball from Ander Herrerra. The goal was well deserved for the Bilbao winger who had been lively throughout.
Bilbao sealed the game with a third goal which their overall play deserved, when De Marcos hammered a half volleyed shot into the top corner as the game drew to a close.
The defeat for Atletico leaves them 11 points behind Barcelona, who had destroyed Osasuna 5-1 in an earlier game on Sunday evening, and this setback will leave them wondering just how to cope with the loss of their talismanic striker, Falcao who is out injured with a hamstring problem.
It was a great victory for Atletic, however, who have struggled at times this season. This excellent performance, giving then only their seventh league win of the season, sees them move up to 11th in the table and well clear of the relegation zone.