- Associated Press - Saturday, March 22, 2014

MADRID (AP) - Athletic Bilbao provisionally stretched its fourth-place advantage while compounding Getafe’s miserable run with a 1-0 victory in the Spanish league on Saturday.

Markel Susaeta curled home from a well-designed set-piece for the 40th-minute winner at San Mames to see Bilbao move nine points clear of Real Sociedad in the race to clinch the league’s final Champions League qualifying spot.

Susaeta had no opposition to worry about as he stepped in to Ander Herrera’s pass with the Getafe defensive wall expecting a shot from outside the area, as the Basque midfielder shot exquisitely to give the hosts the lead in a dour contest up until then.

“We’re not a machine. The last game we scored four goals against Granada but today it was hard work,” Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde said after his team stretched its unbeaten run to five games.

Getafe striker Ciprian Marica saw a pair of strong scoring opportunities saved by Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz in the second half.

Getafe remained one point above the drop after its winless run was stretched to 14 games dating to November.

Spanish leader Real Madrid hosts Barcelona on Sunday in a clasico with title implications as Madrid holds a four-point lead over its rival. Atletico Madrid, which trails Madrid by three points, is at last-place Real Betis.

“It’s the last chance we have to take the league,” Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino said.

Earlier, Granada moved eight points clear of the relegation zone following a 1-0 victory against 10-man Elche, while Rayo Vallecano rallied for a 1-1 draw at Real Valladolid.

Yache Brahimi scored in the 63rd-minute at Carmenes Stadium, taking advantage of a stumble by Damian Suarez to set off and cap the break with a well-taken left-footed shot.

Ionut Sapunaru took Youssef El-Arabi down inside the area with 20 minutes to play to leave the visitors with 10 men, but Fran Rico was rattled by goalkeeper Manu Herrera’s movement and fired his spot kick off the right post.

The win moved Granada four points ahead of Elche and Rayo, which are both just three points clear of 18th-place Valladolid.

Defender Ze Castro put Valladolid ahead before Alberto Bueno equalized on the stroke of halftime, precisely volleying Roberto Trashorras’ long pass past goalkeeper Jaime Jimenez.

Also, 10-man Levante held on for a scoreless draw at Espanyol, which left both teams eight points from the European places.

Victor Casadesus was shown a direct red card minutes before stoppage time following his violent tackle of substitute Jhon Cordoba, but Espanyol could not take advantage.