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Athletic Bilbao draws Espanyol in first action for Basques

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Associated Press
9/16/2012 11:18:09 AM
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BARCELONA, Spain -- Fernando Llorente played for Athletic Bilbao for the first time this season and added a goal to Aritz Aduriz's double to help secure a 3-3 draw at 10-man Espanyol in the Spanish league on Sunday.

Llorente had not played through the first three rounds after telling his boyhood club he wouldn't renew his contract beyond next summer, adding to Bilbao's tumultuous off-season that saw it lose midfielder Javi Martinez to Bayern Munich.

The Spain striker said that his decision to leave Bilbao was "personal" and one that "people have to respect."

"It hurts that people doubt me, I have always given my all for Athletic," Llorente told Spanish radio SER after the game. "In January I will be free again to negotiate, but I want to push that all to the side now to help my team. The less people talk about me, the better."

Also on Sunday, Mallorca drew 1-1 at Osasuna after both teams went down a man in the first half, Real Sociedad beat Zaragoza 2-0, and Granada drew 1-1 with Deportivo La Coruna at home.

Joan Verdu appeared to set Espanyol on its way to an easy win at Cornella-El Prat stadium after assisting Javi Lopez's 18th-minute opener and punching in a rebound from a shot by Samuele Longo in the 44th.

But Aduriz started Bilbao's fightback with a thumping header in the 56th, and Llorente went on as a substitute in the 69th and scored on his first touch two minutes later, firing in a pass from Iker Muniain to make it 2-2.

Longo, on loan from Inter Milan, reclaimed the lead for the hosts in the 80th, only to be sent off for two yellow cards for taking off his shirt and delaying the restart.

Bilbao quickly made good on its numerical advantage when Aduriz whipped home a vicious volley three minutes later to split the points.

Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa said Llorente's scoring return was "positive" for both the player and the club whose fans have been critical of his desire to leave.

"Goals always have repercussions for the player who scores them, for his team and his fans," Bielsa said.

Osasuna and Mallorca were reduced to 10 men in the 34th when Osasuna striker Joseba Llorente and Mallorca defender Jose Nunes were sent off with straight red cards for striking at one another while disputing the ball.

Osasuna's Kike Sola gave some life to the match when he headed in fellow substitute Roland Lamah's cross in the 69th, only to see Mallorca level through Tomer Hemed's header in the 78th, making the Israeli forward the league's second-leading scorer with four goals.

Sociedad had little trouble handing Zaragoza its third defeat in four rounds in San Sebastian with Inigo Martinez opening in the 55th and Carlos Vela converting a penalty he had earned six minutes later.

At Los Carmenes stadium, Floro Flores scored from close range in the 81st to level for Granada after Nelson Oliveira had put Deportivo in front four minutes before halftime.

Atletico Madrid plays Rayo Vallecano later.

On Saturday, leader Barcelona routed Getafe 4-1 to remain perfect through four rounds, while Real Madrid lost 1-0 at Sevilla to fall eight points behind the pacesetters. Also, Valencia beat Celta Vigo 2-1, while Malaga downed Levante 3-1.

Valladolid hosts Real Betis on Monday.

Fernando Llorente Anderson Polga (Photo: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
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