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EUROPA LEAGUE LIVE: Real Betis defeat Olympiakos to secure knockout spot

Real Betis have secured their passage to the Europa League knockout rounds with a 1-0 win over Olympiacos on Thursday.

The Beticos inside Estadio Benito Villamarin groaned and moaned watching their team spur one attacking foray after another within the first twenty minutes. An errand pass and lazy dribble drew supporters out of their seats, flinging their arms in frustration.

Their patience was only stretched further when Sergio Leon had his penalty saved by Jose Sa after 18 minutes.

Olympiacos were seemingly given a new lease on life as their defensive block blossomed like a flower, and lead by the effervescent Konstantinos Fortounis, continued to expose Quique Setien's dubious high-line.

Andreas Bouchakalis should have scored when Kostas Tsimikas' delightful cross set up a free header, but the 25-year-old could only direct his effort an inch past the far post with Joel Robles planted on the goal-line.

Ten minutes later, and it was Betis who broke the deadlock . After some inter-play on the edge of the box, the ball fell to Sergio Canales, who took full advantage of his yard of space by releasing a rasping drive into the bottom corner.

Once again, Olympiacos came right back on the front foot. With two minutes left in the half, Betis were caught flat footed and Omar Elabdellaoui's cross gave Fortunes a chance at the back post, only for Marc Barta to clear his shot off the line.

Former Roma man Toni Sanabria came close to nabbing a second for Betis shortly after the break, but his fine effort from 12 yards out cannoned off the post.

Olympiacos had seemingly ran out of gas after their ferocious first-half and laboured to create enough chances for an equaliser. Their task wasn't made any easier by an improved Betis back-line, led by summer signing Sidnei.

Takashi Inui and Sanabria forced a double save from Sa with minutes left on the clock, but in the end a second goal wasn't necessary. The final whistle blew and an elated Betis crowd erupted knowing the European adventure would continue in the new year.

Andrew Maclean
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Andrew Maclean

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