What should have been a massive battle for fourth place turned into a one-sided affair as Athletic Bilbao defeated Sevilla 3-1 at the San Mamés. Markel Susaeta scored an olimpico early, while Iker Muniain and Ander Herrera added goals in the second half, as Athletic moved one win away from securing fourth.
Athletic Bilbao jumped on top quickly, taking a 1-0 lead in the 4th minute. Markel Susaeta's corner kick was untouched through the box, somehow getting past a teammate, two defenders, and the goalkeeper before taking one bounce and going into the net. Nothing like an olimpico to get the match off to a positive start for the home side.
For the rest of the first half, the game remained tight with fouls and physical play taking center stage over shots on goal and offensive chances.
Just like they did in the first half, Athletic wasted little time scoring their second goal of the match, doubling their lead in the 54th minute. Andoni Iraola got some space on the right wing and lofted a cross over the Sevilla box towards the far post where Iker Muniain was making a run in behind the defense. The ball came down perfectly, and the young striker struck a perfectly placed volley past Beto to make it 2-0.
Any slim chance of a comeback for Sevilla ended in the 72nd minute when Diogo Figueiras was sent off, picking up a second yellow card for dissent. If the red card was the nail, the goal on the restart by Athletic was most certainly the hammer.
Iraola was the assist man yet again, firing a cross in to Ander Herrara who'd found a pocket of space in the center of the box. Herrera headed the ball just past the diving Beto, giving Athletic a 3-0 lead.
Sevilla pulled a goal pack in the 79th minute when Jairo Samperio brought down a cross on the edge of the box, one-touching it right to a charging Kevin Gameiro who fired a shot past Gorka Iraizoz to make it 3-1.
With the win, Athletic take a six-point lead over Sevilla with three matches to play, but more importantly, they also gained the head-to-head tiebreaker. A win for Los Leones next week against Rayo Vallencano would clinch fourth place and the final Champions League spot for next season.
Athletic Bilbao: Iraizoz, Iraola, San José, Laporte, Balenziaga, Iturraspe, Mikel Rico (Morán 90'), Susaeta, Herrera, Muniain (De Marcos 83'), Aduriz (Toquero 88')
Goals: Susaeta (4'), Muniain (54'), Herrera (73')
Sevilla: Beto, Fazio, Alberto, Pareja, Andújar, Figueiras, Carriço (Vitolo 65'), Iborra, Trochowski (Rakitic 65'), Bacca (Samperio 75'), Gameiro
Goals: Gameiro (79')