Sevilla 1 Athletic Bilbao 0: Sampaoli beats Valverde in early Barcelona audition
In a showdown between two coaches tipped to contend for the Barcelona job, Vicente Iborra's strike ensured Sevilla remain firmly in LaLiga's title race thanks to an important 1-0 home victory over Athletic Bilbao.
It was Jorge Sampaoli who came out on top against Ernesto Valverde as Sevilla moved to within two points of LaLiga leaders Barcelona, whose coach Luis Enrique this week announced he will leave the club at the end of the season, creating the most sought-after vacancy in world football.
The only goal of the game at Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan came in the 14th minute on Thursday, Iborra netting his seventh goal of the season by slamming home a rebound after Stevan Jovetic's penalty had been saved by the legs of goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz.
The spot-kick had been awarded after Luciano Vietto had been tripped by Xabier Etxeita in the penalty area.
Raul Garcia hit the post with a header for Athletic, but the visitors - who failed to replicate their win over Sevilla in September's reverse fixture - fell to defeat.
Sevilla have now won four league games on the bounce and sit one point behind second-placed Real Madrid, who hold a game in hand on both them and Barca.
Athletic, meanwhile, have just two points from their last nine top-flight away games and stay eighth in the table.