Thursday, May 24, 2018

Europa League wrap: Bilbao, Atletico set up all-Spanish final

SoccerNews in UEFA Europa League 26 Apr 2012


Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid will contest an all-Spanish Europa League final after contrasting semi-final victories on Thursday.

Bilbao beat Sporting Lisbon 3-1 at the San Mames to overturn a first-leg deficit and progress 4-3 on aggregate.

The Portuguese side had claimed a 2-1 victory in Lisbon a week ago, but goals from Markel Susaeta, Ibai Gomez and Fernando Llorente were enough to see Marcelo Bielsa’s team progess, despite a Ricky Van Wolfswinkel goal.

Bielsa’s side were applying heavy pressure and the breakthrough came on 17 minutes when Susaeta volleyed home from an Iker Muniain cross.

Sporting set out in pursuit of an equaliser and found it one minute before half-time. A corner created confusion in the Bilbao box and Van Wolfswinkel capitalised by sending a left-footed volley into the bottom corner.

But the visitors let down their guard from the restart, and Llorent held up the ball before playing in Gomez, who beat goalkeeper Rui Patricio to ensure the tie was level at 3-3 on aggregate at the break.

Both sides had chances to go ahead in the second half, but the Portuguese resistance was finally broken with just two minutes remaining.

Gomez sent a low ball across the face of goal, and Llorente stuck out a leg to prod the ball into the net, via the post, to send Bilbao into their first European final since 1977.

Atletico Madrid earned their place in the tournament showpiece in Bucharest with a 1-0 win over Valencia in a heated clash at the Mestalla.

Atletico were kept under severe pressure by Valencia for the best part of an hour, but a fantastic goal from Adrian was enough to see them through, even after Tiago’s dismissal with 11 minutes remaining.

Goals were definitely on the agenda for Valencia who, with a 4-2 deficit to overturn from the first-leg in the capital, set out their stall to attack right from the start.

But despite putting Atletico under relentless pressure, they could not break through, and the visitors hit back on the counterattack to devastating effect.

Diego clipped a perfectly-weighted ball over the top of the defence towards Adrian, who took it onto his chest before ripping an unstoppable half-volley past Alves for his 10th goal in the tournament.

Tempers flared with 10 minutes to go, as confusion following an apparent handball in the area saw both sets of players square up to each other.

Simeone even rushed off the bench to calm the ruckus, which ended when Tiago was shown his marching orders by the referee after slapping Roberto Soldado.

Valencia made no further inroads despite the numerical advantage, with Atletico on course for their second Europa League title in three years.


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