Villarreal cut gap on Real Sociedad in Champions League race

AFP , Saturday 13 May 2023

Villarreal romped to a 5-1 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday in La Liga to cut the gap on fourth-place Real Sociedad to five points.

Villarreal s Spanish midfielder Alex Baena (2R) celebrates scoring his team s first goal in spite of Athletic Bilbao s Spanish goalkeeper Unai Simon (R) during the Spanish league football match between Villarreal CF and Athletic Club Bilbao at La Ceramica stadium in Vila-real on May 13, 2023. Photo: AFP.


Girona held La Real to a 2-2 draw earlier on, giving Villarreal a sliver of hope that they can usurp the Basque side in the race for Champions League qualification.

Quique Setien's Yellow Submarine took full advantage with an emphatic victory over Athletic, eighth, inspired by Senegalese forward Nicolas Jackson.

The in-form 21-year-old netted a brace to take his tally to six goals in his last four games.

Alex Baena opened the scoring for Villarreal and Jackson extend their lead, with Oihan Sancet pulling a goal back before half-time from the penalty spot for Athletic.

Jackson netted again five minutes into the second half and Aitor Paredes put through his own net to further Athletic's misery.

Baena grabbed his second goal late on with a clinical finish to round off Villarreal's impressive rout.

Defeat dented Los Leones' ambitions to play in Europe next season, with seventh-place Girona moving a point ahead of them, while Osasuna, ninth, pulled level on 47 points with a 3-1 win over Almeria.

Imanol Alguacil's Real Sociedad took a commanding two-goal lead on Girona through a Mikel Oyarzabal penalty and veteran playmaker David Silva.

The former Manchester City midfielder, 37, signed a contract extension with Real Sociedad earlier this week, until June 2024.

However the Catalan visitors fought back to leave the game level, with Yan Couto and Cristhian Stuani scoring before the break.

Girona's Oriol Romeu was sent off for a second booking in the final stages but La Real could not capitalise and find a late winner.

"The way the team's played in the final phase of the season is keeping me calm," said Alguacil.

"There are no easy games, but with the team playing how it is, we have to be optimistic."

Real Sociedad visit La Liga leaders Barcelona next weekend and must also visit Atletico Madrid in their last four fixtures.

Later Saturday Real Madrid, second, welcome Getafe ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg clash with Manchester City.

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