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Race for Europe tightens with wins for Villarreal, Athletic

Madrid, Jul 1 (efe-epa).- Villarreal won 2-0 away to Real Betis on Wednesday to climb to fifth in LaLiga, while Athletic Club beat Valencia to go seventh.

Gerard Moreno converted from the penalty spot in the 6th minute and added a second goal at the half-hour mark to power Villarreal over a Betis side who played the entire second half with 10 men after Nabil Fekir picked up two yellow cards in the space of three minutes.

The contest at the Benito Villamarin in Seville brought together clubs with widely diverging trajectories. Villarreal have been surging since the re-start following the months-long break due to Covid-19, with four wins and a draw.

For Betis, coming off a 4-2 defeat to Levante, the priority is avoiding relegation.

With 54 points from 33 matches, Villarreal are just 3 points behind Sevilla, currently occupying the fourth and final Champions League berth. Yet they must still keep a wary eye on sixth-place Getafe, with 52 points from 32 games.

Betis, on 37 points, are 13th.

While Villarreal positioned themselves to make a run at Sevilla, Athletic prevailed 2-0 in Valencia to move into seventh place with 48 points. Raul Garcia’s brace secured a result that allows the Bilbao club to join the scramble for Europa League places.

Both of Athletic’s goals came on Valencia mistakes, but even apart from those errors, the hosts’ performance in their first game under new coach Salvador “Voro” Gonzalez will not fill supporters with confidence.

Athletic were in command from start to finish.

The result leaves Valencia in 10th with 46 points, the same as ninth-place Granada, who have a better goal difference after defeating Alaves 2-0 on Wednesday.

Antoñin (25th minute) and Roberto Soldado, with a goal four minutes into the second half, delivered the victory for the visiting side.

Alaves remain in 15th with 36 points.

Real Valladolid and Levante drew 0-0.

The home side probably deserved more and they would have gotten it if Levante keeper Aitor Fernandez hadn’t managed to deny Ünal Enes from the penalty spot in the 97th minute.

The outcome was likely of greater value to Levante, who are 11th with 42 points. Valladolid are 14th with 36 points. EFE

sab/dr

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