Athletic Club moved off the bottom of UEFA Europa League Group I with a 1-0 victory against Hapoel Kiryat Shmona FC in a rearranged fixture in Israel.
With both teams already out of contention in Group I, Athletic fielded a number of youngsters who rose to the occasion in an assured display. However, it was two senior figures who sealed the points, Fernando Llorente and Gaizka Toquero producing composed finishes in each half.
Marcelo Bielsa's side harried and hectored all over the pitch. Effervescent midfielder Erik Morán led the charge, pick-pocketing Darko Tasevski and releasing Llorente, whose venomous shot bounced back off the crossbar. The Spanish international went close again moments later when he planted a free header straight at Kiryat Shmona goalkeeper Daniel Amos from Toquero's pin-point cross.
The visitors continued to probe and were rewarded with the goal their possession merited after 34 minutes. Ismael López's floated corner was cushioned into the path of Toquero, and while his close-range effort was blocked, Llorente pounced and finished unerringly past Amos. An incisive counterattack presented another shooting opportunity on the stroke of half-time, yet López eschewed the obvious and allowed Amos to intercept.
The hosts showed no signs of letting up the pressure after the interval, while Kiryat Shmona coach Barak Bakhar attempted to stem the flow with the introduction of Shimon Abuhazira. It was a decision which almost bore fruit as Abuhazira combined with Ahmed Abed, before the latter was denied by the fingertips of Raúl.
With that reprieve, Athletic stepped up a gear as San José turned Ibai Gómez's corner centimetres wide. A second goal was not long coming though, Gómez's free-kick ricocheting into the path of Toquero, whose sweetly-struck shot 14 minutes from time shot gave Abed no chance. Athletic finish their fixtures next Thursday at home to runners-up AC Sparta Praha and Hapoel visit group winners Olympique Lyonnais.
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