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Bilbao´s cup heroes triumph again

Athletic Bilbao followed up their midweek Kings Cup heroics with an inspirational 3-2 comeback win over high-flying Malaga on Saturday.

Bilbao reached the semi-finals of the cup on Wednesday with a 2-1 victory over Sporting Gijon and rounded off a memorable week by ending Malaga’s six-match unbeaten run in the league.

Malaga twice went ahead through Albert Luque – back in his homeland again after a disastrous two years at Newcastle – and Manuel Lolo but were undone by a determined Bilbao side.

Francisco Yeste and Spain international striker Fernando Llorente twice restored parity for the hosts before substitute Markael Susaeta struck an 86th minute winner.

Athletic climb to ninth with the victory and are suddenly challenging for a European spot when a month ago they looked set to be involved in the relegation dogfight.

The cup, where they face Sevilla in the semi-final, also offers Bilbao hope of their first piece of silverware since winning a league and cup double back in 1984.

Malaga stay seventh rueing a missed opportunity to go into the top four.

Later on Saturday reigning champions Real Madrid travel to Numancia trying to cut Barcelona’s advantage at the top to 12 points.

All eyes will be on captain Raul who is looking to make history in Soria by scoring his 307th goal for the club to join Alfredo di Stefano as the club’s all-time leading scorer.

Madrid’s number 7 has taken over 14 years to amass his 306 goals for Real and di Stefano said he would have no qualms about Raul taking his record.

“How can something like this bother me?” asked di Stefano. “I am very happy for Raul. He is a wonderful kid and a true club player. He is a formidable player, a great professional that takes care of himself.”

Despite the impending record, Real will want the points more to put pressure on Barcelona who are at Racing Santander on Sunday.

Barca reached the semi-finals of the Kings Cup in midweek overcoming derby rivals Espanyol in a tense affair and are now the only Spanish side fighting for silverware in the Champions League, domestic cup and league.

“If it was that easy to win the treble, we’d have done it several times over our 109 years of history, but it hasn’t been like that. Things are not that easy,” explained coach Pep Guardiola.

Barcelona will face Real Mallorca in the last four of the cup and are strong favourites to lift the trophy.

Holders Valencia were dumped out by Sevilla and hope to bounce back with victory over Almeria on Sunday.

Valencia sit fourth, four points behind their cup conquerors who travel to Sporting Gijon on the same day.

Sat 31 January, 2009
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