Rishabh Pant has revealed he took on a jaw-dropping reverse sweep against James Anderson because he felt it was a day when he could do no wrong.

Test cricket's most prolific pace bowler was staggered to be carved away to the boundary in such an unorthodox manner, as India got the better of England on day two in Ahmedabad.

Anderson had only just taken the new ball and had seen it already thrashed to the boundary by Pant from successive balls.

On his way to 101, Pant decided the moment was ripe to paddle Anderson over the England slips for one of the most remarkable shots likely to be played in a Test.

The fourth and final match of the series is leaning heavily India's way after they reached the close on 294-7, with a first-innings lead of 89 runs. 

Pant said of his special shot: "You have to premeditate that, but when everything is going your way you can try your luck sometimes."

Quoted in the Times of India, he said: "I get the license most of the time, but I have to assess the situation and take the game head on. I like to make the team win and if the crowd is entertained by that, I'm happy."

Pant came to the crease with India in trouble on 80-4, and they were also stumbling at 146-6, but his alliance with Washington Sundar (60 not out) turned the momentum of the game.

Anderson eventually took revenge, having Pant caught by Joe Root to end a 118-ball innings, but it was the batsman's day after he began with a cautious approach.

"If the bowlers are bowling well, respect it and take the singles, and that was on my mind," Pant said. "I like to play the situation and I just see the ball and react - that's the USP of my game.

"The team plan was to get to 206, past the England total, and then get as many runs as possible after that as a batting unit."

West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach has signed with County Championship side Surrey for the first seven games of the season.

England are confident spinner Dom Bess will rediscover his rhythm after being left frazzled by India's batsman and his own wayward line on day two of the fourth Test.

India reached 294-7 thanks to a stunning 115-ball century from Rishabh Pant, who helped the hosts establish an 89-run lead, after surviving a big lbw shout from Bess shortly before tea.

Bess finished without reward, with figures of 0-56 in 15 overs pointing to a lack of threat from the 23-year-old off-spinner. He bowled with a lack of control at times, throwing in far too many full tosses, and will want to get among the wickets on Saturday morning and put a bad Friday behind him.

He was recalled for this contest in Ahmedabad having been left out for the second and third Tests, both of which England lost after making a winning start to the series in Chennai.

England spin coach Jeetan Patel said Bess had "needed a break" and was "jaded" by his experience of that opening match.

But Patel trusts Bess is capable of troubling batsmen again, and said of his disappointing performance so far in this match: "It's no real one thing, it's just a fact it didn't work out for him today.

"There's still room for him to improve, like everyone in this group, but Bessy's still very young. He's still learning how to bowl red ball at Test level which is very difficult. He'll be better for these experiences going forward.

"There's some things with Bessy that we'd like to get into. He's got time after this Test match to get back and look at that, but right now he's got a job to do and that's getting those three wickets tomorrow.

"He would have liked to have bowled a lot better today and liked to have given a lot more to the group, and it didn't work out for him. They played him very well. They sat on him and looked for balls to score off when they could.

"Right now he will be quite down and quite tired, but the beauty of this game is the fact there is another opportunity tomorrow."

Ben Stokes, by contrast, was hailed as England's 'Superman' by Patel. 

Stokes took 2-73 in 22 overs to follow up his 55 with the bat on Thursday, and at stumps he appeared exhausted, having been running in amid searing heat.

"Stokesy's your man. He's the guy you want to go to for anything really," Patel said. "He's almost like a Superman with this sort of stuff. He really does enjoy the tough battles.

"He bowled a lot of overs today. He almost bowled the whole first session and he got some crucial wickets for us on the way.

"He's pretty cooked as you can imagine, but he's a warhorse and he loves it. He loves when it gets tough and he loves when it gets hot and tiring, and that's when he stands up most. Hopefully we see the best of him again tomorrow."

Patel said Pant's innings was "pretty special" but claimed the match was "still quite in the balance".

"He came out after that tea break and took it to us," Patel said of Pant's effort. "Hats have to go off to how they played that."

Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick made no secret of his admiration for Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland ahead of Der Klassiker, backing the Norway international to dominate the future of the sport.

Haaland has enjoyed a rapid rise since establishing himself as first choice at Salzburg for the start of the 2019-20 season, his remarkable haul of 28 goals in just 20 matches for the Austrians propelling him to top of many big clubs' transfer shortlists.

But, while the likes of Manchester United were keen on Haaland, Dortmund persuaded him to make the move to Signal Iduna Park, where he has been an overwhelming success.

In 45 matches across all competitions, Haaland has 43 goals, while he outperformed his xG (expected goals) by 4.2 in the second half of 2019-20 after joining Dortmund, meaning not only is he scoring frequently but he is also finishing more difficult opportunities – by comparison, Robert Lewandowski has not boasted such a strong xG differential since 2016-17 (7.8).

In three previous games against Bayern – two in the Bundesliga and one in the DFL-Supercup – Haaland has two goals, but he is yet to end up on the winning side against them with BVB.

Nevertheless, Flick is well aware of the threat posed by the Molde youth product, with Bayern facing the prospect of potentially being replaced at the Bundesliga summit by RB Leipzig if Dortmund leave the Allianz Arena with all three points on Saturday.

"Haaland is what a centre-forward has to be," Flick said.

"He has an enormous hunger for goals. The future could belong to him because he has everything he needs for it.

"He's fast, has a strong finish and the right mentality. When you see the intensity with which he puts on a sprint over 80 metres – it's great. He's someone you always have to watch out for.

"It's very important to close the spaces for him. We have to cut off those passes to him."

 

Flick was also asked about the situation of backup goalkeeper Alexander Nubel, who arrived on a free transfer from Schalke last year having established himself as one of the world's most-promising young goalkeepers.

It was always seen as a potentially risky move for Nubel given the presence of Manuel Neuer, who has gone on to put his injury nightmares behind him and once again cement himself as Bayern's number one.

Nubel's agent recently underlined his client's frustration with the situation and suggested he would look to secure a loan move away from Bayern if things did not change, and Flick showed little sympathy in his response.

"Those are things that we talk about internally – we will have an exchange," Flick said. "But we have no business talking about that here.

"His point of view is his right. Alex knew what he was getting into when he came to Bayern Munich. My job as coach is to pick the players who are currently the best team. He played two games and now he's injured.

"The clear number one is Manuel Neuer."

Jamal Musiala has signed his first professional contract with Bayern Munich.

The rising Germany star has pledged his future to the Bundesliga champions until 2026, just a week after turning 18.

Musiala has made swift progress since joining from Chelsea two years ago and has made 26 appearances in all competitions this season for Hansi Flick's side.

At 17 years and 363 days old, he became Bayern's youngest Champions League goalscorer when he netted in the 4-1 last-16 first-leg win over Lazio.

"I'm really pleased to have signed my first professional contract at FC Bayern," Musiala said via the club's website. "I just feel very good at the club and in the team, I'm playing with the best players in the world and I can learn from them every day in training.

"Hansi Flick, [sporting director] Hasan Salihamidzic and [chief scout] Marco Neppe, along with the whole club, have believed in me and given me the chance very early on.

"I just want to repay that faith with good performances, keep getting better and win a lot more titles with FC Bayern. My aim is to become an important player for this club."

Salihamidzic said: "We're very happy that Jamal has decided to sign his first professional contract at FC Bayern on a long-term basis. This has been a joint effort.

"Before Jamal came to FC Bayern in summer 2019, we had to and were able to convince him and his family about our project. I am very pleased that our system of finding talented players, developing them and then integrating them into the first team is bearing fruit.

"Our chief scout Marco Neppe has played a significant role here. Now we must all ensure that Jamal continues to be nurtured and challenged. I am sure that he will bring a lot of joy to FC Bayern."

Musiala, who last month declared he will play for Germany at senior international level, has been tipped for a call-up to Joachim Low's squad for the coming international break.

Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson is among the headliners for the Piranhas Senior Invite that began yesterday and runs until Sunday, March 7.

Atkinson, who will be heading to her fifth Olympics in Tokyo, is the number one seed in both 50 and 100-metre breaststroke as well as the 50 and100-metre butterfly at the meet being hosted by the Plantation swim team.

In addition to Atkinson’s presence, another potential highlight is the anticipated heavyweight clash between Brazilian World Championship 50m freestyle silver medalist, Bruno Fratus, and Suriname’s Central American and Caribbean Games 50m freestyle champion Renzo Tjon A Joe, in the sprint freestyle races.

Other swimmers from the Caribbean region looking to sharpen up for the respective bids for the Tokyo Games include St Lucian Jayhan Odlum Smith, Haiti’s Davidson Vincent and Aruba’s Patrick Groters.

Ronald Koeman has grown tired of questions over his future at Barcelona and is now eager for the arrival of a new club president to end the uncertainty.

After a delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, elections to determine Josep Maria Bartomeu's successor will be held on Sunday.

Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font are the remaining candidates, with the decision over who will be in charge of the first team likely to sway the minds of many voting members.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta and Al-Sadd coach Xavi have been tipped to return to Camp Nou to replace Koeman should the next president decide a change in leadership is required.

However, Koeman's own position has been strengthened by some recent results, specifically the Copa del Rey triumph over Sevilla this week, with Barca recovering from a 2-0 first-leg deficit to win the tie 3-2 after extra time.

Koeman accepts the decision is largely beyond his control, but he has been wearied by the constant questions put to him about his chances of staying in the role.

Speaking ahead of Barca's LaLiga trip to Osasuna on Saturday, he said: "It's not in my hands. I have another year of my contract. Luckily, there'll be a new president in two or three days and we'll talk.

"I'm focused on winning games and on the possibility of winning the Copa del Rey. The rest is not in my hands.

"Of course, having a president is really important. It's the biggest club in the world and it's essential to know the possibilities that will open up to improve a lot of things. That's it."

When asked about the public discussion around possible replacement coaches, Koeman said: "This happens when a new president is coming. It doesn't bother me. I'm focused on my job. There are so many games that I can't think about other things.

"I'm not interested or bothered by names like Xavi or others. A new president is coming in and he'll decide. I'm tired of answering this kind of question.

"We're doing well, but we have to look for consistency. We have to concentrate on what we're doing. We're still lacking a lot.

"We've improved in terms of individual errors, we press more and there are phases of the game where we have improved with having three at the back. There are various things beyond the system."

Three wins in a row for Barca without conceding a goal has come at a key time in their season. As well as reaching another Copa final, their 10th in the past 13 seasons, they have closed to within five points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, having played a game more.

With Atleti facing Real Madrid on Sunday, Koeman is likely to be supporting Zinedine Zidane's side for a day to give Barca's title chances a further boost.

"The main thing is our game. We have to win, and then the best result is that the team in first loses," he said.

Record-breaker Aaron Finch is relishing having fans in attendance when Australia face New Zealand for Sunday's Twenty20 series decider.

Finch hit 79 not out off 55 balls in Friday's series-levelling 50-run triumph to become his country's leading run-scorer in the format, with 2,310 overall.

His four sixes in the final over propelled his side to 156-6 and made Finch the first Australia batsman to reach 100 maximums in T20 cricket.

Finch was the only player who really got to grips with a tough surface, but he was just glad to help make it 2-2 after the tourists had fallen 2-0 behind.

"I've always said I'd rather get a duck and win than get some runs and lose," he said after New Zealand subsided to 106 all out, seamer Kane Richardson (3-19) the pick of the Australia attack as spinners Ashton Agar, Glenn Maxwell and Adam Zampa took two apiece.

"But to get some runs and contribute to a win is really nice. I felt like I was hitting them terribly for a large portion of the innings, but it was one of those wickets where you never really felt totally in, particularly when spin was bowling.

"It was nice to get a few out of the middle towards the end and get us to a decent total."

On the subject of a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions allowing for the return of fans for the final match, he added: "You play professional sport because you love entertaining, you love the atmosphere when you're at the ground.

"I love going to and watching sport, so to have fans at the ground, regardless of whether they're rooting for you or against you, is just brilliant. It provides so much."

Adelaide United made it three A-League wins in a row on Friday, edging out Newcastle Jets 2-1 at Coopers Stadium.

Craig Goodwin's goal in the 77th minute was enough to settle a tight contest and lift the Reds into third in the table.

Louis D'Arrigo struck after just six minutes to put Adelaide in front before Connor O'Toole smashed in an equaliser from the edge of the box.

It was a stylish way for the Jets to reach 500 goals in the A-League, but O'Toole's strike proved to be their only effort on target of the game.

Goodwin, who earlier smashed a free-kick off the post, capitalised on a hesitant moment at the back from Steven Ugarkovic before firing past goalkeeper Jack Duncan.

Adelaide are five points behind leaders Central Coast Mariners, with Newcastle 10th, four points off the bottom.

Wing wizard Jona Nareki ran in a hat-trick as the Highlanders recovered from a 14-point deficit to sink the Chiefs 39-23 in Hamilton.

The result meant the Chiefs lost a 10th successive game, and they will scarcely have better opportunities to get back to winning ways in Super Rugby Aotearoa, having led 20-6 inside half an hour of this contest.

Yellow cards for Sio Tomkinson and Ash Dixon hindered the Highlanders early on, and tries from Luke Jacobson and Damian McKenzie put the Chiefs apparently in charge.

Nareki had other ideas, though, and when the 23-year-old sprinted 90 metres from deep inside his own 22 to score, it was an ominous warning of what was to come.

Folau Fakatava cut further into the narrowing deficit 10 minutes into the second half, darting over from close range, and then Nareki took over, firstly with a lung-busting dash through midfield that ended with him feeding Shannon Frizell to power over the line.

Nareki himself raced over in the right corner for his second try in the 57th minute, showing great pace but also the nimblest of footwork to scythe through the Chiefs defence.

He got in again in the 69th minute, this time on the left, beating a desperate last-ditch attempted tackle to dot down in the corner and complete the hat-trick.

Josh Ioane added the extras to four of the Highlanders' five tries and added a pair of penalties, with the Chiefs left wounded by a brutal setback.

Giannis Antetokounmpo is confident of ending his wait for a first NBA All-Star Game win after learning of his Team LeBron team-mates.

Milwaukee Bucks superstar Antetokounmpo is making his fifth All-Star appearance this week but has ended on the losing side on all four prior occasions.

The two-time MVP was a team captain in the previous two years but was on the board this time and selected first by LeBron James.

Only once previously, in Antetokounmpo's All-Star bow in 2017, have the pair appeared together. The 'Greek Freak' led the team in scoring with 30 points, but they came up short.

That miserable record will come to an end in Atlanta in 2021, though, according to Antetokounmpo.

Alongside the Bucks forward, James took Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic and Stephen Curry as starters to produce an exciting blend of size and shooting.

"That's the starting five? Yeah, it's over guys," Antetokounmpo said. "Me, LeBron, Luka, Jokic and Steph? Man, that's a good starting five."

While Antetokounmpo is yet to taste victory at the annual event, James has three straight wins as captain of Team LeBron since the move away from the previous East versus West format in 2018.

The Los Angeles Lakers veteran is a three-time All-Star Game MVP and his newest team-mate is looking forward to linking up.

"He just makes plays," Antetokounmpo said of James. "Most of the time you're just wide open and I've never been used to that with somebody else creating the attention and me being wide open all the time.

"So, I've just got to do my job, make the right play, too, and do what I always do: just play hard and hope I can help him get a win."

Antetokounmpo was speaking after posting 26 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and a block in Milwaukee's dramatic 112-111 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

When Borussia Dortmund parted with a reported €20million to sign Erling Haaland from Salzburg a little over a year ago, they'll have been acutely aware of the coup they'd just struck – but whether they expected him to be quite this good is another matter entirely.

Those explosive first few months of the 2019-20 season at Salzburg left most of Europe's biggest clubs clamouring for the Norwegian, but Bayern were seemingly not among them. At least, not in the final straight.

While you can't necessarily have too many great players, few at the time or since have decried Bayern's lack of interest in the striking sensation, and that purely comes down to the presence of Robert Lewandowski.

Eleven months on from Haaland's Dortmund debut, Lewandowski won the FIFA Best Men's Player award having scored 60 goals across the qualifying period and led Bayern to a treble.

But the fact Haaland - named the Golden Boy soon after - was seen as unfortunate not to be nominated for the major gong ultimately won by Lewandowski is testament to the former Molde youngster's frightening potential.

Saturday's Der Klassiker is unlikely to have much bearing on Dortmund's Bundesliga title hopes given they'll still be 10 points behind Bayern even if they win, but the game does provide the opportunity to see the two sharp-shooters pitted against each other, like gunslingers in an old Western movie.

Haaland, along with Kylian Mbappe, is being outlined as the world's next great number nine, but is he already ahead of even Lewandowski?

LEWY'S LONG ROAD

It's easy to forget Lewandowski's backstory and route to the top, simply because he has been one of Europe's most-feared strikers for so long.

But Lewandowski's tale is one of rejection, perseverance and mastery – to say he always looked destined to reach the level he has would be revisionist. After all, the early years of his career in Poland were impacted by the death of his father, being cast aside by Legia Warsaw, a serious injury and failed transfers.

Sporting Gijon turned him down and the 2010 eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull resulted in the collapse of a move from Lech Poznan to Blackburn Rovers.

 

He joined Dortmund in June of that year, a couple of months before his 22nd birthday – by comparison, Haaland was still six months from turning 20 when he signed for BVB.

On top of that, Haaland's early impact on the Bundesliga has been far superior to that of Lewandowski, whose first season yielded only nine goals in 42 games across all competitions. The Norwegian managed 24 in 27 matches.

Looking at that alone, it's easy to make the assumption that Haaland is destined for even greater things than Lewandowski, but it's worth pointing out the Pole was played out of position a lot in his first campaign.

"I was annoyed having to play as a number 10 instead of playing up front as the number nine," Lewandowski told the Daily Mail in 2016. "I played the whole season as number 10. The following season I thought about why I was in that position, then I realised my game had improved. I learned a lot and, when I played up top again, I realised playing as a number 10 had made me a better player."

The data backs him up as well. Not only did his overall productivity in front of goal improve from nine goals to 30, he was proving more consistent generally in those decisive moments, his conversion rate increasing from 8.5 per cent to 19.5.

DIFFERENT BEASTS

When looking at – or comparing – any player in relation to Lewandowski, you have to consider the two different versions of him; pre-26 and post-26.

It was around this age that Lewandowski began to harness the fitness and nutrition expertise of his wife Anna, and it's quite easy to spot when that appeared to start paying dividends, as his goals haul rocketed from 25 to 42 in 2015-16.

He has not gone below 40 in any full season since then and already has 34 to his name in 2020-21 (32 appearances) – he is also just four behind Klaus Fischer (268), the second most-prolific player in Bundesliga history.

Haaland's long-term future isn't at Dortmund and, by extension, doesn't appear to be in the Bundesliga, so matching Lewandowski's record in Germany's top-flight looks unlikely.

But what's clear is he has found this 'world-class' level much earlier than Lewandowski – Haaland has more goals (55) across all competitions than any other current under-21 player in Europe's top five leagues despite playing just 57 games. Jadon Sancho is his closest rival with 46 in 130 appearances.

 

Haaland's first Bundesliga season with Dortmund saw him score 13 times, outperforming his expected goals (xG) by 4.2 – that's a greater differential than Lewandowski has recorded since 2016-17 (7.8), though the youngster's figure here has dropped to 2.5 in 2020-21.

While that is 0.7 less than Lewandowski's 3.2 xG differential, either way he's scoring a lot of goals and more than he would ordinarily be expected to over a long period of time, which speaks for his clinical nature.

Further to that, Haaland – who earlier this term became the youngest player to net four in one Bundesliga game (20 years, 123 days) – boasts a stunning conversion rate at Dortmund. Last season's 41.4 per cent (all competitions) is better than Lewandowski has ever managed, though it was of course limited to half a season.

In 2020-21 he hasn't quite found the same standard, yet his 29.7 conversion rate in all competitions is still better than any other Bundesliga player with 10 goals or more. By comparison, Lewandowski's 28.3 per cent will be a career-high for a single season if he maintains it.

BRILLIANCE IN LONGEVITY

At the very least, Haaland is already a contemporary of Lewandowski's – his effectiveness in front of goal is utterly devastating and, as demonstrated, seemingly a level above that of the Bayern talisman during his early Bundesliga days.

But the challenge for Haaland is to maintain that level and keep kicking on, as Lewandowski clearly did around the age of 26 when analysing what he could do better, taking himself from an excellent number nine to arguably the best of his generation.

Haaland is building from a higher platform than Lewandowski ever was, therefore one has to suspect he has the potential to surpass his exploits.

Maybe he could be this generation's standard-bearer. If he has half the amount of perseverance as Lewandowski, that'd be a good start.

As for whether he's already better than Lewandowski – well, part of the Bayern man's brilliance is his longevity and consistency, how he seems to be getting better with age. But for Haaland to be rivalling the world's best before he's even 21 is an achievement in itself.

Damian Lillard posted 44 points for the Portland Trail Blazers in a 123-119 win over the Sacramento Kings before the NBA All-Star break.

Lillard shot eight three-pointers in a dominant display, while he scored 10 straight points down the stretch to help take down the Kings on Thursday.

Portland's Lillard is the first NBA player to hit a game-winning field goal while trailing in the final 15 seconds one day and then follow that up with a 40-point game the next day since Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant did it on January 31 and February 1 in 2010, according to Stats Perform.

Trail Blazers team-mate Enes Kanter provided support with 22 points and 21 rebounds in a dominant double-double display.

According to Stats Perform, it is the first time in franchise history the Trail Blazers have had a player with 40-plus points and another with 20-plus points and 20-plus rebounds in the same game.

Elsewhere, Ja Morant and Jrue Holiday traded clutch buckets in the final 10 seconds, with the latter earning the Milwaukee Bucks a game-winning lead with two seconds remaining in their thrilling112-111 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was the first pick by Team LeBron for Sunday's All-Star Game in Atlanta, fuelled the Bucks by scoring 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

 

Lowry ties Raptors record

The depleted Toronto Raptors lost 132-125 to the Boston Celtics, but Kyle Lowry impressed. The veteran guard finished with 14 points and 19 assists. He tied a franchise record with his 19 assists, matching Damon Stoudamire (1996) and Jose Calderon (twice). Chris Boucher led the way with 30 points in the absence of stars Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, as well as head coach Nick Nurse and other players and stuff due to the league's health and safety protocols. Boston's Jayson Tatum starred with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists as the Celtics claimed their fourth win a row.

Bradley Beal (33 points and seven rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (27 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds) were exceptional as the Washington Wizards produced a big second-half performance to knock off the Los Angeles Clippers 119-117. The Clippers were without Paul George.

MVP candidate Nikola Jokic put up 20 points and 12 rebounds in the Denver Nuggets' 113-103 win at the Indiana Pacers.

The New York Knicks topped the Detroit Pistons 114-104 behind Julius Randle's double-double of 27 points and 16 rebounds, while he also tallied seven assists.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's 33 points and eight assists inspired the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 107-102 win against the San Antonio Spurs.

 

Brogd-off day

Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon had a night to forget in his side's loss to the Nuggets, which leaves Indiana 16-19 and slipping from playoffs contention in the Eastern Conference. Brogdon finished with 10 points from 34 minutes on court, shooting at four-of-14 from the field, while he missed all five of his three-point attempts.

 

Hart's half-courter

Marcelino lauded Athletic Bilbao, who will contest two Copa del Rey finals within a fortnight after overcoming Levante on Thursday.

Athletic saw off Levante 2-1 in extra time and 3-2 on aggregate to set up a showdown with LaLiga giants Barcelona in the Copa del Rey decider next month.

Supercopa de Espana champions after upstaging Barca in January, Athletic reached last season's Copa final but, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, they are yet to play it – the match against their rivals Real Sociedad set for April 3.

Athletic are now gearing up for two finals in the space of 14 days next month, with a clash against Barca scheduled for April 17.

"These players have made Athletic Club history and sometimes that only happens once in a lifetime," Athletic head coach Marcelino said.

"They had to make the most of the moment and they did so."

Alex Berenguer's deflected, extra-time winner sealed Athletic's progress to back-to-back finals and saw them equal Real Madrid on 39 appearances in Copa del Rey deciders.

It completed a turnaround for the 23-time Copa winners, with Raul Garcia's penalty having cancelled out Roger Marti's opener.

"We are going to take it step by step and enjoy today at least," Raul Garcia added.

"I am very happy because of all the work behind this and hopefully it will be a historic year.

"It's an honour to fight alongside this group of friends.

"We have a lot of confidence in each other, always help each other and that's what is giving us the results."

Athletic and Barca will play their ninth Copa final – the most-contested fixture in the competition's history.

In fact, Athletic will become in the first team to play two Copa del Rey deciders in the same month.

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