BARCELONA, Spain (AP)A long-range strike by Thomas Delaney and Athletic Bilbao’s chronic troubles finishing its scoring chances helped Sevilla earn a 1-0 win at San Mames Stadium on Saturday to close the gap with Spanish league leader Real Madrid.
Sevilla pulled to within five points of the pace-setter a day before Madrid faces Atletico Madrid in a derby that the visitor needs to winto keep alive its title defense.
Delaney struck in the 38th minute for his first goal since the Denmark midfielder joined Sevilla from Borussia Dortmund in the offseason.
His curling strike from outside the area that beat Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon came against the flow of play.
Bilbao threatened to overrun a Sevilla side missing several of Julen Lopetegui’s first-choice players. Striker Youssef En-Nesyri, forwards Lucas Ocampos and Erik Lamela, midfielder Suso Fernandez, and right back Jesus Navas were out injured, while midfielder Ivan Rakitic was suspended.
Brothers Inaki and Nico Williams and Iker Muniain generated a steady stream of scoring chances, only for the same scoring difficulties that have plagued the Basque club all season to again ruin its hopes.
Dani Garcia and Unai Vencedor hit the post. Muniain missed twice from close range, and when Inaki Williams did get a shot goal-bound, goalie Yassine Bounou got a leg on his strike to push it wide.
”It is clear we have to improve our finishing or we won’t get better results,” said Muniain, whose team slipped into 10th place. ”We just have to keep insisting on what we do well and the results will eventually come. When the ball doesn’t want to go in, it just won’t.”
Delaney’s goal was cued by Papu Gomez, who dribbled into the area to draw in Bilbao’s defense before passing back to the top of the box for teammates arriving in a second wave. Gonzalo Montiel knocked the ball on for Delaney to size up the net and bend his left-footed strike into the corner.
”We suffered, but that is what we know how do to when the going gets tough,” Sevilla defender Jules Kounde said. ”We all, me included, lost too many balls in dangerous positions, and the goal came at the moment we were suffering the most. I am very happy for Thomas to have scored the goal. He always gives it his all.”
Sevilla’s win came after it was eliminated from the Champions League group phase after falling to Salzburg 1-0.
Marching behind a large banner that read ”For the Dignity of Valencia C.F. LIM GO HOME,” thousands of Valencia fans protested against the ownership of Singaporean businessman Peter Lim before their team’s home match against Elche.
This was the second large protest by disgruntled supporters who accuse Lim of running the club solely as a business as opposed to investing to win since acquiring it in 2014 when it was heavily in debt. The first major protest was in May.
Many fans also held up signs against Lim during the match that ended with a 2-1 victory for the hosts.
Valencia was without coach Jose Bordalas and player Omar Alderete after both tested positive for COVID-19.
Joselu Mato became Alaves’ all-time leading scorer in the first division after his 30th goal for the club earned a 1-1 home draw with Getafe.
Espanyol forward Javi Puado scored twice in the second half to tilt a 4-3 shootout in its favor and keep Levante winless in all 17 rounds played.
Levante, which is on its third coach this season, remained in last place, while Espanyol improved its home record to six wins, two draws and only one loss.
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