MIAMI – Athletic Bilbao continued to enjoy life away from the Primera Division as they downed big-spending Paris St Germain at San Mames on Thursday evening to move three points clear at the top of Europa League Group F.
Athletic have picked up just two points from their opening five league games under new coach Marcelo Bielsa but they defeated Slovan Bratislava in their Europa League group opener and tonight claimed the prized scalp of in-form PSG.
Igor Gabilondo's brilliant finish put Athletic ahead in the 20th minute and Markel Susaeta slotted home a similar goal on the stroke of half-time to complete the scoring, with PSG's challenge all but ending with the 53rd-minute dismissal of Mohamed Sissoko.
The victory leaves Athletic on six points in Group F, with PSG level on three points with Salzburg, who beat Slovan tonight.
The match, which began amid reports of disturbances involving visiting supporters in the city centre prior to kick-off, started with Athletic quickly getting on top and Spain international Fernando Llorente had two efforts in the opening six minutes.
Markel Susaeta then tried his luck with a long-range free-kick before the same player helped Athletic take the lead.
Following a good move down the right, which included a great dummy by Susaeta, the winger sent over a cross to the far post which Gabilondo flung himself at to send a superb flying volley past PSG goalkeeper Nicolas Douchez and into the roof of the net.
Gabilondo sought a second goal in the 39th minute but his shot was parried by Douchez and Iker Muniain sent the follow-up wide.
Athletic survived a scare in the the 43rd minute when Mathieu Bodmer, after picking up a pass on edge of the box from Nene, fired in a thunderous shot which just cleared Gorka Iraizoz's bar.
Two minutes after that Athletic doubled their advantage with an almost identical goal to their first, with the deep cross this time coming from the opposite side of the field from Jon Aurtenetxe and Susaeta finishing on the half-volley from beyond the far post.
That left PSG, who started their group campaign with a 3-1 win over Salzburg, with a mountain to climb and it got even worse for Antoine Kombouare's side as Sissoko was sent off in the 53rd minute, the midfielder earning a second yellow for his challenge from behind on Iker Muniain.
There was no way back for PSG after that with Athletic looking the much more likely side to add the scoreline in the remainder of the match, leaving the French visitors tasting defeat for the first time in 11 matches.