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San José leads Athletic into Europa League

Athletic Club 2-0 FC BATE Borisov
Mikel San José was on target for the third successive game as Athletic booked a return to a competition they finished runners-up in two years ago.

Athletic win to seal third place and take UEFA Europa League spot ahead of BATE
Mikel San José on target for the third successive game for the home side
BATE set a new record for most group stage goals conceded
Athletic reached the UEFA Europa League final in 2012
Round of 16 draw takes place in Nyon at 12.00CET on 15 December

Athletic Club claimed a measure of revenge and the available UEFA Europa League berth with a convincing 2-0 Group H victory at home to FC BATE Borisov.

Eager to secure third in Group H and a return to the UEFA Europa League having reached the final under Marcelo Bielsa in 2011/12, the first period was a monologue of Athletic chances: Ibai Gómez, Mikel Rico, Ander Iturraspe, Óscar de Marcos and Guillermo Fernández all trying and failing to beat Artem Soroko in the BATE net. Mikel San José's 47-minute opener brought relief, with the Leones adding a second late on through Markel Susaeta to end their UEFA Champions League campaign on a high.

Athletic had charged out of the blocks, determined to mask the bad taste of their 2-1 defeat by the Belarusian title holders on matchday two and Saturday's home loss to Córdoba CF. Gómez had efforts rebuffed by Soroko and defender Egor Filipenko early on, setting a pattern that continued throughout the first half. Iturraspe headed over a fine Andoni Iraola cross and De Marcos drew a near-post save from Soroko.

Markel Susaeta (L) after clinching victory
Markel Susaeta (L) after clinching victory©AFP/Getty Images

The opportunities came and went. Fernández put a free header wide on 41 minutes after another superb centre from skipper Iraola, and seconds after the restart the young striker was again guilty – dawdling after being released by Rico. San José swiftly made ample amends, however, forcing the ball in after a corner from the outstanding Susaeta.

Withstanding a brief rally from the visitors led by Vitali Rodionov, Athletic then looked likely to build on their advantage. They went close again through Guillermo, the 21-year-old rocketing a left-foot drive off the inside of the post. There was also a dipping Gómez free-kick before Susaeta capped his fine showing with the 88th-minute clincher.