Things got off to a slow start and neither side looked particularly in control in the early going, though Athletic seemed to have a leg up in terms of attack positioning and overall pace, routinely looking on top and pushing the lines forward against a conservative Espanyol side. However, the visitors struggled with creativity and to translate that dominance into a proper advantage until Iñaki Williams showed up. The Ghana international took advantage of a delightful assist from Dani García to drill a shot into the bottom-left corner and out of Fernando Pacheco’s reach. Athletic saw their most dominant spell after opening the scoring, and they could have doubled their lead, but Pacheco was there to deny the efforts from García and Oihan Sancet. Espanyol had a golden chance to even things up just before the break, but Martin Braithwaite’s goal was ruled out due to a handball leaving Bilbao to march into HT with a deserved lead.
Espanyol attempted to turn things around in the second half, but their lack of ideas was alarming, as the entrances of players such as Aleix Vidal and Nico Melamed didn’t offer too much in terms of an attacking spark. On the other hand, Athletic looked surprisingly comfortable in the final third, and their attacking runs often threatened the opposing defensive line. Bilbao upped the tempo by sending on both Iker Muniain and Nico Williams midway through the second half, and the latter made his presence felt almost immediately when he doubled the team’s tally in the 75th minute with a beautiful finish from inside the box - just six minutes after coming on.
The hosts did at least manage to score a consolation goal in stoppage time via Sergi Darder, who pounced on a rebound following a header from César Montes to pull one back, but unfortunately for Los Pericos, it was too late to mount a comeback. There was still time for some final drama however, when a frustrated Vidal saw red for the hosts following two yellows in quick succession, ultimately putting the nail in the coffin on Espanyol’s chances of an unlikely late equaliser.
The result sees the Basque side leapfrog Osasuna in the standings and now sit just four points behind a European spot. Meanwhile, Espanyol’s struggles continue and have now lost five games in a row, a run that has them sitting in the relegation zone on goal difference.