Tiny club Eibar beats Rayo to continue strong start in Spain
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Eibar consolidated its strong start to the Spanish league with a 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano that lifted the modest club into sixth place on Sunday.
Eibar hit the woodwork twice and needed an own goal to secure the win at its tiny Ipurua Stadium, which seats just over 6,000 and is overlooked by apartment buildings in the industrial Basque Country town.
Rayo centerback Diego Llorente slid toward his goal in an attempt to clear Borja “Baston” Gonzalez’s cross, only to redirect the ball into his own net in the 21st minute.
Operating on a budget of only 18 million euros ($19.8 million) — compared to more than half a billion euros for leader Real Madrid — Eibar moved into the Europa League positions ahead of current Champions League sides Valencia and Sevilla after 10 rounds.
Last season Eibar also enjoyed a superb start to its debut campaign in the topflight, arriving to the midway point in eighth place. But an extended run of bad results the rest of the way saw it finish in the relegation zone, only for the club to later be kept in the first division in place of Elche after it was penalized for its large debts with relegation.
Eibar’s first-year coach Jose Mendibilibar wanted to curb any expectations to avoid another collapse.
“I don’t make predictions, we compete well and know what we have to do,” said Mendilibar. “I am sure bad days will come and that’s why we have to remain humble.”
Elsewhere, Felipe Caicedo scored seconds before the final whistle to snatch 10-man Espanyol a 1-1 draw at home and keep Granada winless in eight rounds.
Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams scored twice before conceding a penalty for handling the ball in a 3-1 win at Real Betis. Raul Garcia secured the points with a long strike that lifted Bilbao past Espanyol into ninth with its away victory of the season.
Sporting Gijon’s 19-year-old Alen Havilovic, playing on loan from Barcelona, scored before hitting the bar twice to help the promoted club get its first home win since returning to the first division by beating Malaga 1-0.