Llorente makes direct impact in Bilbao return
Fernando Llorente had a great return
BARCELONA, Spain ● Fernando Llorente played for Athletic Bilbao for the first time this season and added a goal to Aritz Aduriz’s double to help secure a 3-3 draw at 10-man Espanyol in the Spanish league on Sunday.
Llorente had not played through the first three rounds after telling his boyhood club he wouldn’t renew his contract beyond next summer, adding to Bilbao’s tumultuous off-season that saw it lose midfielder Javi Martinez to Bayern Munich.
The Spain striker said that his decision to leave Bilbao was “personal” and one that “people have to respect.”
“It hurts that people doubt me, I have always given my all for Athletic,” Llorente told Spanish radio SER after the game. “In January I will be free again to negotiate, but I want to push that all to the side now to help my team. The less people talk about me, the better.”
Also, Atletico Madrid outlasted Rayo Vallecano 4-3 in a Spanish capital shootout as Diego Costa set up two goals and earned a penalty that Radamel Falcao converted for his ninth goal in six games for club and country this season.
Joan Verdu appeared to set Espanyol on its way to an easy win at Cornella-El Prat stadium after assisting Javi Lopez’s 18th-minute opener and punching in a rebound from a shot by Samuele Longo in the 44th.
But Aduriz started Bilbao’s fightback with a thumping header in the 56th, and Llorente went on as a substitute in the 69th and scored on his first touch two minutes later, firing in a pass from Iker Muniain to make it 2-2.
Longo, on loan from Inter Milan, reclaimed the lead for the hosts in the 80th, only to be sent off for two yellow cards for taking off his shirt and delaying the restart.
Bilbao quickly made good on its numerical advantage when Aduriz whipped home a vicious volley three minutes later to split the points.
Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa said Llorente’s scoring return was “positive” for both the player and the club whose fans have been critical of his desire to leave.
“Goals always have repercussions for the player who scores them, for his team and his fans,” Bielsa said.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Mallorca drew 1-1 at Osasuna after both teams went down a man in the first half, Real Sociedad beat Zaragoza 2-0 thanks to goals by Inigo Martinez and Carlos Vela, and Granada drew 1-1 with Deportivo La Coruna at home.
Atletico paraded the European Super Cup it won by thrashing Chelsea before playing a combination of its best, and then worst, football against its crosstown rival at Vicente Calderon stadium.
Diego Costa, who played on loan at Rayo last season, set up Mario Suarez in the 29th and Jorge “Koke” Resurrecion in the 49th with short crosses they redirected into the net.
Arda Turan made it 3-0 in the 51st before Falcao blasted in a spot kick five minutes later after Diego Costa was fouled by Javi Fuego in the box.
But just when it appeared Atletico would rout Rayo, its defence relaxed and let Andrija Delibasic net a quick brace in the 82nd and 85th. Leonardo Carrilho grabbed a third goal in the 89th to drastically reduce the final difference.