Soccer

Athletic Bilbao beats nine-man Real Betis

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The Canadian Press
2/23/2014 3:33:41 PM
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BARCELONA, Spain - Athletic Bilbao strengthened its hold on fourth place in the Spanish league by winning 2-0 at Real Betis on Sunday after the bottom side had two players dismissed.

Bilbao's first victory in four rounds lifted it four points clear of Real Sociedad and kept it in command of Spain's last Champions League berth for next season.

In contrast, Betis was left 11 points from safety after a dismal performance that at times bordered on self-destruction amid some questionable refereeing decisions.

Seconds after Betis' Ruben Castro was booked for diving in the area, Bilbao forward Iker Muniain scored from a spot kick in the 34th minute after Damien Perquis tripped Kike Sola from behind on the edge of the area.

Another reckless tackle by Perquis earned him a second yellow card in the 41st to completely deflate the crowd at Benito Villamarin Stadium. Betis was left with nine men from the 58th when Lorenzo Reyes handled the ball after he had already been booked for arguing.

Bilbao squandered several scoring chances until substitute Guillermo Fernandez headed in the first ball he touched in the 81st.

Betis has won one game in the last 18 rounds despite having three different coaches this season.

"It was an ugly game," said Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde. "My team pulled out a win thanks to the setbacks suffered by the other side. Playing against nine I still had the sensation that the game was evenly matched. Our forwards could have done a little more for us."

Also, Valencia and Sevilla both won to move to within five points of sixth place and Spain's last Europa League spot.

Valencia needed an injury-time goal from 19-year-old defender Ruben Vezo in his first start to complete a 2-1 comeback win at home over a feisty Granada.

Francisco "Piti" Medina put Granada ahead in the 47th, but as the visitors' tired Valencia substitute Paco Alcacer tapped in Sofiane Feghouli's pass to level in the 64th. Valencia kept pressing and Vezo volleyed in a free kick headed on by a defender to claim the hard-fought win.

Sevilla won 1-0 at Rayo Vallecano to end a six-game winless streak.

After a drab first half by both sides, fullback Jorge "Coke" Andujar headed home Ivan Rakitic's free kick to grab the 57th-minute winner at Vallecas Stadium.

Unai Emery's team played the last seven minutes with 10 men after Vicente Iborra received his second booking for taking too long to leave the pitch after receiving medical assistance.

Rayo remained in second-to-last place and five points from safety after conceding its league worst 59th goal in 25 games.

"This was not a day to lose," Rayo defender Jose Castro said.

Soccer (Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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