Athletic Bilbao ease into Copa del Rey final with victory over Atletico Madrid

By Sports Desk February 29, 2024

Athletic Bilbao swept past Atletico Madrid 3-0 at Estadio San Mames to seal their place in the Copa del Rey final.

Leading 1-0 from the opening leg, first-half goals from brothers Nico and Inaki Williams put the hosts in control of the tie.

Gorka Guruzeta swept in a third on the hour as Athletic secured a final date with Real Mallorca.

The visitors created an early opening when Samuel Lino’s effort was straight at Bilbao keeper Julen Agirrezabala.

Bilbao broke the deadlock in the 13th minute when Nico Williams got to the left goalline and chipped a lofted cross back through the penalty area and his brother Inaki crashed home a volley.

The Williams brothers soon combined again, this time Inaki fed Nico on the wing and his shot flew narrowly wide of the right post.

Atletico pushed for a response as Angel Correa fired over the crossbar after being picked out by Alvaro Morata’s pass.

There was a brief stoppage in play around the 35th minute as a spectator needed medical treatment in the stands, but the game soon resumed.

Bilbao doubled their lead in the 42nd minute when Inaki Williams was played clear down the right and held off Atletico defender Mario Hermoso before cutting the ball back for Nico to stab in from close range.

The start of the second half saw another delay for a different fan in the record crowd of 52,061 packed into the Cathedral to receive medical assistance, eventually being carried away on a stretcher.

Athletic Bilbao later confirmed the person had been struggling to breathe, but was stabilised and taken to hospital.

When the action restarted, Nico Williams was soon involved again to send Oihan Sancet clear on goal, but his shot was fired well over the crossbar.

Atletico boss Diego Simeone tried to spark some life into his side with a triple change after 54 minutes, with Memphis Depay, Reinildo Mandava and Pablo Barrios sent on to replace Nahuel Molina, Hermoso and Correa.

Any hopes of a comeback, though, were ended in the 61st minute when Guruzeta knocked in a rebound after Sancet’s angled effort had been pushed out by Madrid keeper Jan Oblak.

Depay’s angled free-kick was acrobatically saved by Agirrezabala before Saul Niguez headed wide as Bilbao saw out the closing stages to reach the Copa del Rey final at La Cartuja for the first time since 2021.

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