Levante nears salvation in Spain after 3-1 win at Athletic
By TALES AZZONI
MADRID (AP) With two free kick goals by the same player from nearly the same spot only two minutes apart, Levante came from behind to beat Athletic Bilbao 3-1 and move a step closer to avoiding relegation in the Spanish league on Monday.
Macedonian midfielder Enis Bardhi scored from eerily similar free kicks in the 42nd and 44th minutes, and Jose Luis Morales capped Levante's victory in the final minutes after a superb run from his own half.
It was the fifth win in the last seven matches for the club from Valencia, which opened a nine-point gap to Clarence Seedorf's Deportivo La Coruna, the first team inside the relegation zone. There are four rounds left.
"These are the most important points we have earned," Bardhi said. "We played a great away match. I'm happy for my goals, but especially for the three points."
Another three points should be enough to clear Levante from demotion as Deportivo would have to win all of its matches and make up a 16-goal difference to be able to earn the tiebreak advantage over Levante.
Las Palmas and Malaga have already been relegated.
Raul Garcia opened the scoring for the hosts with a spectacular long-range shot into the top corner in the eighth minute at San Mames Stadium.
Bardhi equalized with his first free kick by curling the ball around the wall and into the near corner. Athletic goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga got to the ball but it had already crossed the line.
Arrizabalaga only watched when Bardhi struck again two minutes later with an incredibly similar shot on a free kick only a few yards back from the first one.
Morales sealed the victory when he got past two Athletic players after picking up the ball in the defense, then cleared two other defenders with a nice cutback move inside the area before finishing with a chip shot over Arrizabalaga.
Athletic, which dropped to 14th in the 20-team standings, hasn't won for three straight matches, but it was coming off a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
"We haven't been playing our best," Garcia said. "That's why we are in this situation."
More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga
Updated April 23, 2018