Survival for Bilbao better than title, says Clemente

May 8, 2006

MADRID, May 8 (Reuters) - Steering Athletic Bilbao towards survival in the top flight ranks as a bigger achievement than leading them to back-to-back league titles in the early 1980s, coach Javier Clemente says.

Athletic, who together with Barcelona and Real Madrid are the only side never to have dropped out of the first division, ensured they would remain in the Primera Liga with a 2-1 victory at Deportivo Coruna on Sunday.

'It was a very important victory, because it was more important for the club to stay in the top flight than to win a trophy,' Clemente told a news conference at the Riazor.

'It was better than when we won the league in Las Palmas (in 1983). This team is very young, but has learnt a lot from this experience although we had a very tough time of it.'

Fellow Basque rivals Real Sociedad also avoided the drop thanks to a 2-2 draw at home to Celta Vigo, while Racing Santander produced a near miraculous escape scoring twice in the last 10 minutes for a 2-1 comeback win over high-flying Osasuna.

Racing's victory was a personal triumph for caretaker coach Nando Yosu who was appointed at the end of last month.

Yosu had performed the same trick for Racing on three previous occasions and was carried off the pitch on the shoulders of the team at the end of the match.

There was no such luck for Cadiz who were relegated a season after returning to the top flight following their 3-1 defeat at Getafe and will now join fellow Andalucians Malaga in the second division.

The final relegation slot will be disputed between Alaves and Espanyol in the last round of matches.

Alaves, who have 36 points from 37 games, host Deportivo, while Espanyol, on 38 points, are at home to Real Sociedad.