|First Division - Day 7|
Valencia 5 - Athletic Bilbao 1
Cañizares; Curro Torres, Ayala, Pellegrino (Djukic 68'), Fabio
Aurelio; Albelda, Baraja (Kily González 50'); Angulo, Aimar, Vicente
(Mista 62'); Carew. 4-2-3-1.
Team changes: Valencia: Fabio Aurelio for Carboni / Athletic: No change.
Three goals from Pablo Aimar inspired Valencia to a 5-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao. The Argentine midfielder had to play with pain-killing injections due to an injury to his shoulder, but Rafa Benítez was grateful for his presence as he took the Basque side apart in the first half. With eight minutes on the clock the league champions were already two up, Aimar scoring a brilliant first, picking up the ball in midfield and cutting through the defence before shooting low past Lafuente. Then just two minutes later Rufete found Carew with a long ball for him to run on and beat the keeper with an angled shot.
Athletic were in disarray, and although Heynckes had opted to repeat his line up with five defenders, they were leaving gaps all over the place. With just under half an hour gone a bad clearance from Larrainzar fell to Albelda, and he slid the ball through for Aimar to get his second and his team's third of the night. Vicente hit the post in another attack, and just before half time the Spanish international found Aimar again for him to round Lafuente and complete a first half hat-trick.
Heynckes had already replaced Yeste with Javi González before half time, and he took off a shaky Murillo to bring on Aitor Ocio at the interval. However within two minutes his side were further behind after Lacruz brought down Carew just inside the penalty area, Baraja handing over penalty taking duties to Fabio Aurelio after his double miss three weeks ago. Benítez started to think about Wednesday night's Champions League tie with Liverpool, resting Baraja and then giving a run out to Djukic, who may well replace the suspended Ayala for that match.
Bilbao finally got a consolation goal right at the end, Tiko's long volley deflecting off Kily González past Cañizares six minutes from the final whistle. That might not be enough to save Heyckes though, and some reports say he may be on his way in hours rather than days as the Basques move perilously close to the relegation zone. Valencia are riding high though, and pending the games of Real Sociedad and Málaga on Sunday they top the table. Now for Anfield.