Bilbao seal top-four finish
Athletic Bilbao convincingly booked their place in next season's Champions League courtesy of a 3-0 win at Rayo Vallecano.
Last Updated: 02/05/14 11:12pm
Athletic Bilbao convincingly booked their place in next season's Champions League courtesy of a 3-0 win at Rayo Vallecano on Friday night.
Mikel San Jose, Oscar De Marcos and Ander Herrera were on target as fourth-placed Athletic moved nine points clear of nearest challengers Sevilla, who have just three games left to play and an inferior head-to-head record this season.
Defeat for Rayo brought a juddering halt their bid for a third-straight victory that would have taken them up to eighth place in the Primera Division standings.
Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde said his side needed three more points to ensure they would finish the season in fourth after their 3-1 win over Sevilla last week, and they were soon on the offensive in hot pursuit of those points with Mikel Rico and Herrera going close in the opening exchanges.
It took just 21 minutes for the breakthrough to come, Markel Susaeta's corner turned home from close range by the alert San Jose.
Another set-piece was sufficient to unlock the home defence a second time with half an hour played, a Susaeta corner again the key as Rayo's backline failed to clear and De Marcos lashed home.
A listless Rayo briefly sparked into life in the 35th minute when Nacho's hit from Ruben Rochina's centre was punched away Gorka Iraizoz, but that was as much threat as the hosts posed to the visiting goalkeeper in the contest.
The three points targeted by Valverde were wrapped up in with 17 minutes remaining, Herrera dispatching a free-kick into the right corner of Ruben's goal after Ze Castro had hauled down Aritz Aduriz on the edge of the 18-yard box.