LLORENTE NETS WINNER FOR BILBAO
Athletic Bilbao warmed up for their Europa League semi-final in midweek with a 1-0 win over Mallorca thanks to Fernando Llorente's 28th goal of the season.
The Spanish international headed the hosts in front after just 12 minutes as he got on the end of Ibai Gomez's free-kick, but goalkeeper Dudu Aouate will have been disappointed to see the ball slip between his legs and into the net.
Mallorca were unfortunate not to be level before half-time as Pedro Bigas' shot came back off the post, but they did not seriously threaten an equaliser in the second half as Athletic held on to move within six points of Malaga in the final Champions League place.
Athletic have already qualified for the Europa League by virtue of facing Barcelona in the final of the Copa del Rey, but judging by his team selection, manager Marcelo Bielsa clearly thinks Champions League football is still a possibility as he sent out his strongest side.
And the Argentinian was rewarded for that decision early on as Llorente's header from Gomez's dangerous ball into the box squeezed under Aouate.
Emilio Nsue had been on the scoresheet as Mallorca won 3-0 at Racing Santander on Thursday and was inches away from applying the final touch to Michael Pereira's cross 12 minutes later, but Javi Martinez got a vital flick to turn the ball out for a corner.
Bigas then found himself in a rare advanced position but he showed the touch of a striker as his shot on the turn from just outside the area had Gorka Iraizoz beaten only to come back off the post.
Iraizoz was called into serious action just once after the interval though as he got down well to save Chori Castro's drive on the hour mark.
Llorente could have done better moments later as he failed to direct Gomez's cross on target before he was replaced by Gaizka Toquero on 71 minutes, presumably with an eye on Thursday's clash with Sporting Lisbon.
And Toquero nearly scored in stoppage time as he beat Aouate to a long ball over the top, but the striker's effort came back off the bar and rebounded to safety.
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