MADRID: Sevilla closed in on Champions League qualification by beating struggling Real Mallorca 2-0 at home to open up a nine-point gap in the race for fourth spot in La Liga.
Lucas Ocampos opened the scoring with a first-half penalty while Youssef En Nesyri sealed the victory late on, latching on to a long punt from goalkeeper Bono and barging past a defender to lift the ball over Mallorca keeper Manolo Reina.
Sevilla have 66 points after 36 games and will clinch their return to Europe’s premier competition after a two-year absence if Villarreal, who have 57, fail to win their game in hand.
Mallorca are 19th on 32 and will need to earn at least four points in their final two games if they are to stand a chance of staying in the top-flight, as they trail 17th-placed Alaves by three points and have an inferior head-to-head record.
The result also meant Eibar sealed their top-flight status after beating relegated Espanyol 2-0 away from home earlier on, while 14th-placed Real Valladolid are now also safe on 39 points.
Edu Exposito scored both goals to earn Eibar their first win in four matches which took them to 15th in the standings on 39 points, seven above the relegation zone.
Leganes are also three points behind Alaves but have a glimmer of hope after they scored one penalty and saved another in a battling 1-0 win over Valencia.
Javier Aguirre’s side have an equal head-to-head with Alaves and are only two worse off on goal difference.
Leganes had to play the last 36 minutes against Valencia with 10 men after Jonathan Silva was sent off, shortly before Leganes goalkeeper Pichu Cuellar saved Dani Parejo’s spot-kick.
Ruben Perez had converted his own penalty in the first half to give Leganes the lead and a victory that keeps alive their slim chances of avoiding the drop.
Valencia’s miserable season continues, with the prospect even of Europa League qualification appearing increasingly remote. They sit ninth, three points behind Getafe in sixth, having played a game more.
Also on Sunday, Athletic Bilbao kept alive their own hopes of qualifying for the Europa League with a 2-1 win at Levante with a double by midfielder Raul Garcia. The result moved Athletic to seventh place.
Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2020