|First Division - Day 38|
Espanyol 2 - Athletic Bilbao 0
Jarque, Lopo, Soldevilla, David García; Alex Fernández, Ito; Maxi
(Ibarra 69'), De la Peña (Fredson 72'), Velamazán (Corominas
63'); Tamudo. 4-2-3-1.
Team changes: Espanyol: Soldevilla, David García, Ito, Velamazán for Ibarra, Pochettino, Domi, Amavisca / Athletic: Luis Prieto, Felipe, Solabarrieta, Jonan García for Lacruz, Del Horno, Gurpegui, Arriaga.
Espanyol return ton the UEFA cup next season after a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao took them up to fifth in the table. Last season they needed a win against Real Murcia to avoid relegation, but their fortunes had changed and there was a festival atmosphere against an opponent who only had a place in the Intertoto cup to play for.
Valverde was in charge of Athletic for the last time though, and he preferred to give a run out to some of his youngsters rather than go for broke. That made the home side's task easier, and Alex Fernández came close to scoring when he fired a free kick just over the bar. Jonan García went close at the other end, but with just over half an hour on the clock the Catalans took the lead when Velamazán took a short pass from Maxi to turn the ball past Aranzubia.
Athletic could have equalised when Kameni was almost beaten following a Tiko free kick, but just two minutes after the restart Lopo headed home De la Peña's corner to extend the lead. Aranzubia was lucky not to be sent off soon afterwards when he handled outside the area, but referee Lizondo Cortés allowed play to go on and Tamudo rolled the ball against the post (the keeper was booked when play stopped).
Espanyol were left with ten men for the last quarter of the game when Jarque was sent off for a second bookable offence, but Lotina's side held on to ensure the three points. Lizondo was almost trampled underfoot as the crowd surged on to the pitch at the end, a repeat of the scenes from last year but for a very different reason. Athletic had missed out on the Intertoto, but they too were rewarded a few days later when UEFA invited them to join the competition after two other sides from England and Bielorussia pulled out.