Williams leads Bilbao to win over Atletico
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona and Atletico Madrid stumbled in the Spanish league title race on Saturday, while Sevilla said enough is enough of coach Diego Alonso.
Barcelona’s 1-1 draw at Valencia makes it three straight games across all competitions without a win as Xavi Hernández’s team struggles to find the form that won it the domestic title last season.
Atletico fared even worse and was fortunate to lose only 2-0 at an Athletic Bilbao which closed on the top-four spots with its convincing victory.
Barcelona’s stalemate at Mestalla Stadium means surprise leader Girona is six points ahead of third-placed Barcelona before it hosts Alaves on Monday. Real Madrid is four points clear of Barcelona before hosting Villarreal on Sunday. Atletico, despite its loss, is also just one point behind Barcelona with an extra game to play.
João Félix put Barcelona ahead in the 55th minute. He had to only tap in a cross by Raphinha after Frenkie de Jong played the Brazil forward clear with a precise lobbed pass with the tip of his boot.
Barcelona wasted chances to get a second goal before midfielder Hugo Guillamón pulled Valencia level in the 70th by scoring from the edge of the box after the visitors failed to clear a cross.
Coach Xavi Hernández called the game “a final” after losing to Girona last weekend and then falling at Antwerp midweek in the Champions League — despite already qualifying for the knockout rounds.
“Any result other than taking the three points here is a blow for us,” Barcelona midfielder Pedri González said. “We played better than we did against Girona but not good enough. It is clear that we are not in a good moment. That happens over the course of a season but we need to pull out of this now.”
Spain winger Nico Williams starred in Bilbao's win over Atletico by scoring his team's second goal after he hit the post and earned a penalty that was missed by Oihan Sancet.
After Gorka Guruzeta’s 51st-minute opener at San Mames Stadium, Williams appeared to be well marked by defenders Mario Hermoso and Axel Witsel when he executed a quick cut back and lashed the ball in from a tight angle in the 64th.
“This is our fortress,” Nico Williams said about San Mames, where Bilbao has only one loss in nine games. “Just go forward game by game and hope we can reach European competitions (next season).”
Jon Rahm, whose signing for the Saudi-funded LIV tour stunned the golf world, took an honorary kickoff wearing a red-and-white scarf for the home side. Rahm’s birthplace is near Bilbao in the northern Basque Country region.
Sevilla fired Alonso after the team hit a new low with a 3-0 loss at home to Getafe.
Since Alonso arrived in October, Sevilla did not win in eight league games and lost all four of its Champions League matches, finishing bottom of its group. Its only two wins since Alonso replaced José Mendilibar, who led Sevilla to the Europa League title last season, have come against lower-division rivals in the Copa del Rey.
Sevilla is in 16th place but level on points with Celta Vigo and Cadiz, which is in the drop zone in 18th.
Getafe striker Borja Mayoral converted a penalty for his 10th goal of the season, second most to Jude Bellingham’s 12 for Real Madrid.
FIRST HOME WIN
Rafa Benítez earned some relief after his Celta won its first home game by edging Granada 1-0 to exit the relegation zone.
The match was the first for Celta since Marián Mouriño became the first woman to preside over the club, and the only woman to lead a top-flight club in Spain.
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