La Liga - Jonas seals Valencia comeback
Valencia came from behind to earn a superb 2-1 victory against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames as Jonas scored the winner with his first goal for the club.
Bilbao produced a spirited performance that deserved better but third-placed Los Che have really cemented their place in the Champions League spots with this eye-catching result.
Gaizka Toquero and Llorente were a constant threat in attack with the two almost combining to good effect as early as the third minute.
Soon afterwards, when a lovely move sparked by Oscar de Marcos' bold run led to Toquero flicking into the path of Llorente, only a fine left-handed stop by Vicente Guaita denied the highly-rated striker.
A goal did arrive in the 14th minute when Toquero crossed for Llorente to hold the ball up with his back to goal. The big centre-forward managed to turn as time appeared to stand still, hooking his finish whilst on the deck past a scrambling Guaita.
It's little wonder Real Madrid and Barcelona are eyeing Llorente but Toquero outshone his partner with another hard-working display that earned the acclaim of the home crowd.
Joaquin stood out as Valencia's best performer and he almost broke through after a one-two but Iraizoz was out smartly to block. From the rebound, Roberto Soldado went sprawling in a bid to win a penalty after being brushed by the keeper but his efforts went unrewarded.
Torquero steered a David Lopez free-kick off target and Llorente had a header saved by Guaita as the hosts' strike duo continued to threaten.
Bruno Saltor chested a cross back to Guaita and ignored hopeful shouts for a penalty but he had strong spot-kick claims of his own at the other end when his cross appeared to be handled by Lertxundi Koikili as it rolled under his body.
Lopez and Pablo Hernandes traded efforts before the interval as Bilbao went in for the break a goal to the good.
There was a sickening incident at the start of the second half as captain David Navarro elbowed danger man Llorente in the head, drawing blood. The defender acted as though there had been a clash of heads, even to the extent of being stretchered off in an apparent daze, in a successful bid to avoid punishment.
Lucky to be on the pitch, Navarro was booed heartily by the home fans on his return to action.
Unpeturbed, Llorente lashed off target after more good work by the busy Toquero with Mata heading wide at the other end from a Jeremy Mathieu centre.
Valencia looked punchless in attack without top scorer Aritz Aduriz as most of the action came towards their goal as De Marcos got a finish all wrong following an electric run by teenager Iker Munaian. Toquero then flew down the left with tremendous tenacity but was forced to go it alone and ended up being denied by Guaita at his near post.
Unai Emery threw on Jonas to increase his attacking options and the striker soon shot over the bar.
However, only the foot of a post denied Llorente a second goal as he expertly curled a shot goalwards after being set up by Munaian, who was growing in influence on the left flank.
The equaliser came against the run of play and out of nothing as Bruno's pass was flicked into the path of Joaquin. The former Spain international produced an exquisite cross that begged for a finish, which Mata duly supplied from close range.
With 19 minutes left, the momentum suddenly switched to the visitors but their hearts were in their mouths when substitute Markel Susaeta found the net at the far post, only to be rightly flagged offside.
Tino Costa came on for Valencia and forced Iraizoz into a fine save after being teed up by Joaquin. Moments later, the Argentinian cracked in another dangerous drive that was unconvincingly parried by Iraizoz and Jonas followed up to net a simple tap-in from the rebound.
Bilbao tried in vain to fight back with De Marcos hammering a shot wide and Guaita being kept busy in the closing stages. The best chance fell to Llorente but, unusually for him, his header was poor when the defence made a mess of an offside trap from a free-kick and Guaita saved comfortably.
Igor Gabilando fired a free-kick just wide and Valencia held out for an excellent, if a little undeserved, victory which is their eighth win from their last nine matches in La Liga.