MADRID: Veteran Real Betis winger Joaquin Sanchez needed only 20 minutes to score his first career hat-trick on Sunday, becoming the oldest player with a treble in La Liga.

The 38-year-old Joaquin scored in the second, 11th and 20th minutes at the Benito Villamarin Stadium, leading host Betis to a 3-2 win over Athletic Bilbao. Real Madrid great Alfredo Di Stefano held the previous record at the age of 37.

Betis’ rivals Sevilla were later held by 10-man Osasuna to a 1-1 draw, failing to keep pace with leaders Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sevilla stayed in third place, three points behind the Spanish powerhouses, who have a game in hand against each other on December 18.

Joaquin came into the match against Athletic with three goals in the season before doubling his tally on Sunday. He scored with a shot from near the penalty spot, then hit a well-placed curling shot into the far corner, and completed the hat-trick from inside the area following a breakaway.

“It’s the first hat trick of my life. I don’t think it’s going to happen again,” Joaquin said. “I’ve never been a goal-scorer throughout my career, so I’m really proud to be able to get three goals against a rival like Athletic. Considering my age, it’s not an easy thing to do.”

He came close to adding a fourth in second-half stoppage time, but his close-range strike was saved by Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simn.

“It was a shame he missed his chance for the fourth goal, it was probably his easiest opportunity to score,” Betis coach Rubi said. “He keeps showing how good he is despite his age.”

Joaquin has played more than 600 matches in his career, most of them with Betis. He also played for Valencia, Malaga and Italian club Fiorentina. He played with Spain’s national team from 2002-07, including in two World Cups and a European Championship.

It was the third straight league win for Betis, who moved to 11th place with 22 points.

Athletic, sixth with 26 points, were coming off three straight league victories. Inaki Williams and Yuri Berchiche scored the visitors’ goals in Seville.

Munir El Haddadi curled in a brilliant opener for Sevilla in the 11th minute but they were unable to find a winner after Ezequiel Avila equalised for Osasuna on the stroke of half-time.

Real Sociedad missed a chance to move closer to the top after a 0-0 draw at Valladolid. The result left fourth-placed Sociedad with 27 points, seven behind Barca and Real.

Striker Angel Rodriguez scored a second-half winner seven minutes after coming off the bench to give Getafe a 1-0 win at Eibar. The win left the Madrid club in fifth place while Eibar dropped to 16th place, two points from the relegation zone.

Leganes beat Celta Vigo 3-2 at home for their second league win of the season. They have the same nine points as last-placed Espanyol but are ahead on goal difference. Celta remain inside the drop zone on 13 points.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019