Athletic Bilbao and Villarreal share spoils in goalless stalemate
Villarreal eked out a point from a dismal goalless draw at Athletic Bilbao to maintain their challenge for a top-four finish in La Liga.
In a techy stop-start encounter referee Mario Melero brandished 12 yellow cards and two red as both sides saw out the game with 10 men following the late dismissals of Athletic striker Inaki Williams and Villarreal substitute Daniele Bonera.
The point keeps Villarreal in fourth place, while Athletic remain sixth and stay on course for Europa League football next season.
Williams hit a post in the 32nd minute with a skewed effort while under pressure from Villarreal midfielder Bruno and that was the closest either side came to scoring in the first 45 minutes.
Athletic striker Aritz Aduriz headed wide early in the second period and midfielder Benat Etxebarria blazed over the crossbar in the 51st minute as the home side chased the opening goal.
Williams' dangerous ball into the box evaded his team-mates in the 63rd minute but there was little to excite the San Mames crowd.
Villarreal striker Roberto Soldado almost snatched an 83rd-minute lead for the visitors when his sizzling drive, destined for the top corner, was turned away at full stretch by Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz.
Soon after visiting midfielder Denis Suarez crashed a shot high over the crossbar before Athletic were reduced to 10 men in the closing stages when Williams was shown his second yellow card.
Neither side could lift themselves for a rousing finale, the last significant action being Villarreal substitute Bonera's second booking in stoppage time which left both sides with 10 men.