Valencia’s Champions League hopes dwindle with loss at Eibar

MADRID (AP) — Valencia’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League took a hit with a 1-0 loss at relegation-threatened Eibar in the Spanish league on Thursday.

The result left Valencia in eighth place, seven points behind Sevilla, which holds the final qualification spot for the European club competition. A win would have left Valencia in a tie for fifth. It stayed two points behind sixth-place Villarreal in the final Europa League spot.

An own-goal by Geoffrey Kondogbia in the 16th minute gave the victory for Eibar, which remained in 17th place but opened a four-point gap to the relegation zone.

Eibar players celebrated by greeting fans who watched the match from the balconies of nearby buildings overlooking the Ipurua Municipal Stadium.

It was the first win after the pandemic break for the Basque Country club, which was coming off consecutive draws against Athletic Bilbao and Getafe. It had resumed with a loss at Real Madrid.

Valencia has lost two of its four matches since the break. It hasn’t won an away match since December.

“Away matches have been a problem for us this season,” Valencia defender José Luís Gayà said. “We have been performing well at home, getting good results, but we don’t have a good streak away from home. If we want to contend for a Champions League spot we need to start winning these away matches.”

Kondogbia found his own net when a corner went through several players and ricocheted off his leg.

“We can’t concede a goal like that if we want to make it to the Champions League,” Gayà said. “It’s difficult to turn things around in these types of matches.”

Valencia defender Eliaquim Mangala was sent off in the 90th for a hard foul that earned him a second yellow card.

Also Thursday, Real Betis ended its winless streak after the break with a 1-0 home victory over last-place Espanyol thanks to Marc Bartra’s goal early in the second half. It was Betis’ first game since coach Rubi was fired because of the team’s poor results.

League leader Real Madrid visits Espanyol on Sunday, while second-place Barcelona visits Celta Vigo on Saturday. The Spanish powerhouses are tied on points but Madrid has the better tiebreakers with seven rounds left.