January 5, 2013
Los Granotes on verge of top four
Levante moved back to within a point of the top four as they came from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 3-1 at the Ciutat de Valencia.
Aritz Aduriz had given the visitors an early lead as he stooped to head home Andoni Iraola's cross for his 15th goal of the season but Levante were level 20 minutes later thanks to a thunderous strike from Christian Lell.
Athletic were then reduced to 10 men just before the break as Aymeric Laporte was shown a straight red card for bringing down Roger as he broke clear on goal.
Levante made their man advantage count almost immediately as Vicente Iborra beat Gorka Iraizoz to David Navarro's flick-on to give the hosts a 2-1 lead at the interval.
And Juan Ignacio Martinez's men made sure of all three points 20 minutes from time when Nabil El-Zhar sent a low drive from outside the box into Iraizoz's bottom right-hand corner.
Martinez will be particularly pleased that his side made short work of being without top-scorer Obafemi Martins through suspension after their reliance on the Nigerian for goals early in the season, but it appeared it could be a long afternoon for Los Granotes after just six minutes as a patient Athletic build-up down the right found Iraola at the by-line and his chipped cross was perfectly measured for Aduriz to head into the far corner.
Levante responded positively though and after Iraizoz had done brilliantly to deny Roger from close range they were level as El-Zhar fed Lell just inside the box on the right side of the area and, despite the narrow angle, he fired a shot high past the goalkeeper at the near post.
The game then swung decisively in the hosts' favour just before half-time as a terrible error from Laporte saw him misjudge a long ball over the top and in his desperation to recover, he only succeeded in bringing down Roger leaving referee Josi Luis Paradas Romero with little option but to send him off.
Iraizoz made a fine save to turn away Michel's effort from the resulting free-kick but Levante kept the pressure on and Iborra showed great bravery to anticipate Navarro's header and nod past the Athletic keeper from close range.
Despite being a man down Athletic had their chances after the break as twice Munua parried strong efforts from Aduriz, but there was no way back for the Basques once El Zhar chested down Michel's pass from a corner and buried his low effort for his first goal since the opening day of the season.