Bilbao battle to earn point
Fernando Llorente scored on his return as Athletic Bilbao twice came from behind to claim a 3-3 draw at Espanyol.
Last Updated: 16/09/12 4:39pm
Fernando Llorente scored on his return as Athletic Bilbao twice came from behind to claim a point against Espanyol in an enthralling 3-3 draw at Cornella-El Prat.
Espanyol enjoyed the better of the first half and went ahead thanks to a wonderful team move on 18 minutes as Javi Lopez side-footed home before Joan Verdu tapped in a second just before half-time.
However, Athletic responded early in the second half and after Aritz Aduriz had brought them back into the game, Llorente scored within seconds of coming on as a substitute to level the scores with 25 minutes remaining.
The drama continued as Samuele Longo restored Espanyol's lead with 10 minutes to go, only to be shown a second yellow card for his over-exuberant celebrations.
And Athletic made their man advantage count almost immediately as Aduriz volleyed in a stunning equaliser to ensure a point for Marcelo Bielsa's side.
Espanyol have now let the lead slip in their last three games and nearly contrived to lose from two goals up for the second consecutive game with a tepid second-half display in contrast to the positive and confident performance they put in before the break.
The opener arrived thanks to some wonderful combination play between Verdu and Victor Sanchez before the former slipped a lovely ball through for Lopez to finish.
Aduriz's deflected header which came back off the bar was the closest Athletic came to mounting a response in the opening 45, and they should have been two down when Longo raced on to a pass through the middle, rounded Gorka Iraizoz but then let the ball run too far in front of him and failed to turn it in from a narrow angle.
The Italian made amends moments later, however, as his powerful low shot was only parried by Iraizoz perfectly into the path of Verdu to roll in the second.
Possibly sensing the hosts' nervousness, Athletic were a completely different side after the break and halved the arrears 10 minutes into the second period when Aduriz powered home Ibai Gomez's free-kick.
And the former Valencia striker was denied a second moments later by Raul Rodriguez's clearance off the line before Cristian Alvarez produced a fine save to deny Gomez as Athletic pilled on the pressure.
Llorente's arrival did produce the equaliser though, as he controlled Iker Muniain's pass with his first touch before firing clinically past Alvarez into the bottom corner.
Yet, with the visitors pushing for a winner, there was another twist 10 minutes from time as Mubarak Wakaso released Longo and this time the on-loan Inter Milan forward made no mistake with his low finish past Iraizoz.
However, the 20-year-old jumped into the crowd to celebrate his goal and was shown a second yellow card by referee Perez Montero.
Within three minutes it was all-square again as Markel Susaeta crossed for Aduriz to brilliantly volley home on the turn for his third league goal of the season.
And despite a frantic finish, neither side could find the winner as Espanyol collected their first point of the season.