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Valverde relieved to reach last eight

Athletic Bilbao squeezed into the Europa League quarter-finals on away goals, and head coach Ernesto Valverde was thrilled after overcoming a stern test from Valencia.

Valverde’s side came into Thursday’s second leg at Mestalla holding a 1-0 lead, but found themselves behind on aggregate thanks to goals from Santi Mina and Aderlan Santos.

However, with 14 minutes remaining Raul Garcia’s superb flick set up Europa League top scorer Aritz Aduriz to slot home his eighth of the campaign as Athletic claimed the decisive away goal they needed to advance following a 2-2 aggregate scoreline.

Valencia head coach Gary Neville was sent to the stands after protesting against what he felt was a handball by Markel Susaeta in the build-up to Aduriz’s goal, but Valverde was just pleased to take a place in Friday’s last-eight draw in Nyon.

“We are happy, we have moved to the quarter-finals,” he said.

“Valencia are a great team with amazing players. They have come to win the game.

“We were successful at the right time, we are happy because we have eliminated a great team.

“I always expect the best from our rival. They have made an extraordinary match. We took risks in the second half and we had fortune.

“Yet we suffered until the last [free-kick] miss of [Dani] Parejo. Valencia are used to playing the Champions League so for us to progress into the quarter-finals is very important.

“These games are good because you learn to suffer. We have advanced and I think we have done a good tie.”

Thu 17 Mar, 2016
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