Valencia beat Athletic Bilbao

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Valencia kept their title hopes alive with a 3-0 win at Athletic Bilbao at the Estadio San Mames.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:38 IST
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Champions League chasing Valencia were hoping to secure their position of second in La Liga when they travelled to face 15th placed Athletico Bilbao on Sunday. Bilbao were aiming for an unlikely victory in a bid to save themselves from an end of season struggle against relegation. The visitors started strongly with plenty of possession and could have taken an early lead after a sloppy Bilbao clearance left defender Ismael Urzaiz struggling to put the ball out of play and prevent a goal. The rest of the first half was well balanced with the best of the chances falling to the hosts shortly before the break. A 37th minute cross from Francisco Yeste sat up perfectly for Ismael Urzaiz, only for his shot to rebound off the goal post. The game appeared to be heading towards a draw - a result which could have allowed La Liga leaders Barcelona to clinch the Championship later - when David Villa broke the deadlock in the 82nd minute. Miguel Angel Angulo launched the ball in, leaving Villa to chip it over goal keeper Inaki Lafuente to score his 20th La Liga goal and give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Two minutes later, Villa secured his second after latching onto a blocked Ruben Baraja shot and stepping past Lafuente to push it into the back of the net. His hat trick was secured minutes later after some concise passing from the Valencia team. Mista drew Lafuente off his line and probably could have scored himself but chose to pass the ball onto Villa and leave him to slide it into an open goal. The result leaves Valencia in second place in la Liga and keeps the title race alive for another week at least. Bilbao will now rue the loss of a crucial possible point as they face up to an end of season battle to remain in la Liga next season. (AP)