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.
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• 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.
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.