Grp I: Sparta Prague pile on Bilbao misery

Athletic Bilbao's miserable start to the season continued as last year's Europa League finalists were soundly beaten 3-1 by Sparta Prague.

Football News: Javi Martinez, Athletic Bilbao

Tomas Zapotocny's powerfully driven shot went straight through Gorka Iraizoz to give the hosts the lead on 25 minutes and the Czech side were somewhat fortunate to double their lead before half-time when Bekim Balaj's header took a wicked deflection off Aritz Aduriz on its way into the bottom corner.

Sparta got another slice of luck when a penalty was awarded for Xabier Castillo's challenge on Vaclav Kadlec despite the contact appearing to take place just outside the area, and Josef Husbauer calmly slotted away the penalty.

Oscar de Marcos pulled a goal back for the visitors with 20 minutes remaining.

Athletic have won just one of their opening six games in the Spanish Primera Division and they looked like a side devoid of confidence and inspiration.

Kadlec should have given Sparta the lead on 23 minutes as he sped past Carlos Gurpegi but could only prod his shot onto the post when one-on-one with Iraizoz.

The home side had to wait just five more minutes to get the opening goal as Zapotocny took aim from the edge of the area with an effort that was too hot for Iraizoz.

De Marcos was denied an instant reply as his volley was turned away by Tomas Vaclik before a fine block by Gurpegi prevented Ladislav Krejci making it two.

The second goal did arrive for Sparta five minutes before the break when Husbauer's cross was headed towards goal by Balaj and took a decisive deflection off Aduriz on its way past Iraizoz.

Vaclik made a brilliant save at the beginning of the second period to turn away Castillo's powerful header and any hope the visitors had of a comeback were extinguished when the full-back clashed with Kadlec and the additional assistant referee behind the goal instructed Manuel De Sousa to award the penalty.

Husbauer made no mistake from the spot, and despite some great skill by Iker Muniain to set up De Marcos for Athletic's consolation, the hosts were not unduly troubled as they held onto their advantage in the final quarter.

 



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