Football

Athletic Bilbao knocks Real Madrid out of Copa del Rey in avenging way

Athletic Bilbao players celebrate after scoring against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey quarter finals on Feb, 3 2022. | PHOTO: Getty Images |

Athletic Club Bilbao avenged their Supercopa de Espana final defeat by knocking off Real Madrid 1-0 in Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final.

Alex Berenguer struck a brilliant winner in the 89th minute to send Marcelino’s men into the last four, where Valencia, Real Betis and Rayo Vallecano await Bilbao having qualified earlier.

Madrid had beaten Athletic 2-0 in last month’s Supercopa final but could not find a breakthrough at San Mames in the absence of their main man upfront Karim Benzema.

It means Athletic, who eliminated Barcelona in the previous round, could now reach their third consecutive Copa final, having lost the previous two to Barca and Real Sociedad.

Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid :

| PHOTO: Getty Images |

Clear-cut chances were scarce in the first half, but it was Athletic who carried the threat, with 10 shots to Madrid’s three despite having only 41.3 per cent of the possession.

Indeed, Carlo Ancelotti’s boys ended the half with just 0.1 expected goals, their lowest tally for the first 45 minutes of any match since a 1-0 away win over Real Valladolid in January 2020.

Inigo Martinez saw a header well saved by Thibaut Courtois early in the second half, before Raul Garcia glanced an effort wide via a deflection and Berenguer, on for the injured Nico Williams, fired over.

Madrid began to assume more control as the 90 minutes wore on and Casemiro spurned a great chance, firing straight at Julen Agirrezabala from Marco Asensio’s clever backheel.

Athletic Bilbao are now through to the semis of the Copa del Rey. | PHOTO: Getty Images |

Yet just as extra-time beckoned, Berenguer produced a moment of magic, turning cleverly onto his left foot inside the Madrid box before bending a superb strike to the right of Courtois.

Real tactician Carlo Ancelotti admitted his side missed the services of Benzema in the loss, reiterating how the Frenchman is important to the La Liga leaders.

“We’re hurt because we want to win everything. I don’t think it will have consequences. I only hope that it makes us stronger,” he said of the defeat, as quoted by Spanish media Marca.

“We don’t have players of Karim’s quality. We didn’t change the plan. We tried to play from the back, and we couldn’t. Athletic’s pressing was really great until the 70th minute.

Benzema had not recovered from a hamstring injury sustained in the 2-2 draw with Elche and Ancelotti accepted the decision not to rush the forward back into action left his side without enough of a threat going forward.

“It’s not the worst game of the season. It was even until the end. I’m not surprised with how the game went.” Ancelotti added.

 

 

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