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Football Reporting


Athletic Bilbao close on La Liga’s European spots with tight win against Espanyol

Athletic Bilbao have continued their push for European football with a tight 2-1 win against Espanyol at San Mames.

In a frantic opening spell, the visitors went ahead after only three minutes through Tonny Vilhena. Making his first start in La Liga having joined Espanyol on loan from FC Krasnodar in January, the Netherlands international charged onto a smart cross from Javi Puado to lash home from close range.

Athletic hit back almost immediately through youngster Oihan Sancet, who ran onto a ball over the top from Raul Garcia before picking out the far corner. They went ahead just over 10 minutes later, Inigo Martinez heading in after Dani Vivian hooked the ball to him at the far post.

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While the two sides were evenly matched, Athletic held onto their one-goal advantage for the rest of the game. Espanyol ended up with 57 per cent possession and created a similar number of chances to their opponents, Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simon denying them an equaliser when he tipped Sergi Darder’s fizzing effort over the crossbar late on.

Though Athletic stay eighth in the table, the win takes them within a point of Villarreal in sixth and within two points of Atletico Madrid in fifth. Espanyol remain 13th and are now without a win in four games.

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