Soccer

Sevilla routs Granada to close in on Champions berth

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The Canadian Press
4/20/2014 1:32:57 PM
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BARCELONA, Spain -- Sevilla beat Granada 4-0 on Sunday to keep the pressure on Athletic Bilbao in their fight for Spain's last Champions League berth.

Celta Vigo outclassed Almeria with a 4-2 away win as forward Manuel "Nolito" Agudo netted a double, and Paulao scored one goal and set up another, but both for the wrong team, as bottom-side Real Betis slumped to a demoralizing 3-1 defeat at Rayo Vallecano.

Granada's defeat at Sevilla was eerily similar to Betis' debacle, with its players scoring an own goal and gifting another goal to Kevin Gameiro.

Diego Mainz redirected Gameiro's pass inside his own post in the 14th, and Gameiro tapped in his 14th league goals this season in the 51st, saving Tiago Delfim from being credited with another own goal after he had pushed the ball toward his empty net.

Stephane Mbia and Victor Machin added goals for Sevilla in the 58th and 68th.

Sevilla plays Valencia on Thursday in the semifinals of the Europa League. This win provisionally closed the gap with fourth-place Bilbao to three points before the Basques visits Barcelona later.

Almeria's Rodrigo Rios hit the post in the 10th, but Celta dominated the rest of the game through forwards Nolito, Rafina and Fabian Orellana.

Rafina set up the opener when his deflected shot fell to Nolito to score in the 19th. Rios levelled in the 40th, only for Nolito to find Charles to cap a buildup started by Orellana in the 52nd.

Another flowing move saw Nolito score from a pass by Orellana in the 71st before Rafina lobbed the ball behind the defence for Orellana to add a fourth four minutes later.

Oscar Diaz got Almeria's second goal in the 88th but his side remained two points from safety. Celta, meanwhile, climbed into the middle of the standings.

"We went out there with the same philosophy we have had all season," said Nolito, referring to coach Luis Enrique's attacking style. "We have to celebrate this win because it is a big step toward staying up."

Paulao's nightmare began when he left his back pass woefully short of reaching goalkeeper Adan Garrido, letting Rayo forward Rochina Raixes poach the ball and roll it in for the 14th-minute opener.

The Brazilian centre back followed that mistake by unfortunately clearing a cross that floated into his own net in the 27th.

Paulao immediately asked to be substituted and was replaced five minutes later, with the Rayo fans in Vallecas Stadium politely applauding him to show their support.

Rayo, which has surged out of the drop zone to the middle of the table with only one loss in nine rounds, kept the pressure on as Joaquin Larrivey tapped in a rebound in the 52nd before Javier Chica got Betis' consolation goal in the 79th.

Betis was left on the brink of relegation, 10 points from safety with four games to go.

Later, Barcelona's players and coach will be judged by their fans at Camp Nou after returning from three stinging defeats that threaten to leave the Catalan club without a major trophy for the first time since 2007-08.

Kevin Gameiro (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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