|First Division - Day 25|
Betis 1 - Athletic Bilbao 1
Betis: Prats; Tais,
Juanito, Rivas, Luis Fernández; Ito, Benjamín; Joaquín,
Capi (Cañas 62'), Denilson (Mingo 90'); Dani (Varela 85'). 4-2-3-1.
Team changes: Betis: No change / Bilbao: Murillo, Larrainzar, Oscar Vales, Yeste, Urzaiz for Javi González, Alkorta, Orbaiz, Joseba Etxeberria, Ezquerro.
The seventh and eighth placed teams Betis and Athletic Bilbao drew 1-1 in the last match on Sunday night to keep them in touch with the top sides. Knowing that all but Real Madrid of the teams above them had failed to win, a victory for either side would have taken them up to joint third in the table. Betis had gone five games without defeat (albeit including four draws), and Juande Ramos was almost forced to put out an unchanged side, with B team striker Dani alone up front for the second game in a row due to injuries to Casas, Tomas and Amato. Young winger Joaquín was applauded on to the pitch having been called up for the first time for Spain's international friendly against Portugal. Heynckes though carried on with his rotations, making five changes to his starting line up from the side which beat Málaga, with the hero from that match Alkorta left on the bench and youngsters Murillo and Del Horno given the difficult task of shadowing Joaquín and his strike partner Denilson.
Yeste opened the scoring for the visitors with an opportunist goal in the fourth minute, latching on to a loose ball on the edge of the area to fire it over Prats. After that though the visitors retired to their own half, with Julen Guerrero a mere spectator and Urzaiz looking lost and forlorn alone up front. A quarter of an hour after Yeste's goal Dani got his first ever for the first team, diving forward to meet Ito's long free kick and steer it past Lafuente. That allowed him to fulfil a promise and dedicate the goal to his deceased uncle, a surprise to some as he supported the other team from the city, Sevilla. For the rest of the first half the main protagonist was referee Pérez Pérez, who produced a hat-full of unwarranted cards, eventually sending off Betis substitute Varela late in the game for elbowing an opponent. Joaquín and Denilson delighted the crowd with their skills in the second half but needed someone to get on the end of their crosses, and Betis keeper Toni Prats left the pitch at the end limping and must be doubtful for next week's game at Alavés. Betis go above the Vitoria based team on goal average, but with Ito and Luis Fernández joining Varela in the stands for that game after picking up their fifth yellow cards of the season, they will have their work cut out to get a result. Bilbao will be hosts to Real Madrid next Saturday so their task won't be easy either.