La Liga: Villarreal remain in battle for top four with win over Athletic Bilbao

Madrid: Villarreal stayed in the hunt for a top-four finish and a Champions League berth after beating visiting Athletic Bilbao 3-1 on Friday, despite finishing the match with 10 men.

Villarreal moved to within four points of Sevilla, which is struggling after five league games without a win, and four points clear of sixth-place Bilbao.

Villarreal's forward Adrian Lopez (C) celebrates a goal with teammates. AFP

Villarreal's forward Adrian Lopez (C) celebrates a goal with teammates. AFP

Defender Victor Ruiz helped Villarreal establish its lead by scoring an early goal and setting up substitute Adrian Lopez for another. But he also earned a direct red card for a harsh tackle on Inaki Williams with 15 minutes to go.

Ruiz started the match in the best form possible by finishing off a rebound of a strike by Samuel Castillejo in the 17th.

French defender Aymeric Laporte leveled for Bilbao three minutes later, but the hosts restored their lead just after halftime through striker Cedric Bakambu.

Ruiz then set up the third goal by heading a free kick across the goalmouth for Lopez to nod over the line in the 57th.

Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz twice hit the crossbar as the visitors pressured Villarreal late on.

On Saturday, league leader Real Madrid hosts third-place Atletico Madrid in an eagerly awaited derby. Second-place Barcelona, meanwhile, visits Malaga trailing Madrid by two points having played one game more.

Published Date: Apr 08, 2017 11:56 AM | Updated Date: Apr 08, 2017 11:56 AM

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