Roberto Soldado has increased his tally to 15 goals in La Liga this season as he pushes for a spot on Spain's Euro 2012 roster. He cemented Valencia's third-place position in La Liga on Sunday with a hat trick in an incredible performance against Athletic Bilbao. Marcelo Bielsa's side has been brilliant at San Mames this season, but they fell apart against Los Che in a 3-0 loss on Sunday. They're now facing a very big uphill battle to finish in fourth place.
The first goal was an absolute gift. In the 41st minute, Athletic defender Mikel San Jose played an inexplicable weak backpass to his keeper, which was easily intercepted by Soldado. He went around Gorka Iraizoz and set himself up for a simple tap-in finish.
Soldado's second came in the 57th minute on a cross by Jordi Alba shortly after a corner kick, and it looked like Valencia were coasting to a win. Andoni Iraola picked up a second yellow card for Athletic in the 67th minute, and his sending off sealed the three points for Los Che. Things got worse for Les Leones and San Jose when he committed a handball in the 84th minute, giving away a goal to Soldado for the second time in the game. He stepped up and buried the ensuing penalty to complete his hat trick.