Athletic Bilbao swept Sevilla aside in front of a passionate crowd at San Mames tonight, to book their place in the Copa Del Rey final...
Athletic Bilbao 3-0 Sevilla (Aggregate 4-2)
Athletic Bilbao scored three times in a blistering first-half to secure their place in the Copa Del Rey final at the expense of Sevilla.
All the talk pre-match had been about how the lions of Bilbao would be eaten by the Andalucians but in a roaring San Mames, Javi Martinez, Fernando Llorente and Gaizka Toquero were the predators.
The trio fed off some lacklustre and poor defending from Sevilla at times but also from the home support, which was fierce throughout.
Manolo Jimenez's side never really got to grips with the power and strength of Llorente and their own forwards, Freddy Kanoute and Luis Kanoute, forced Gorka Iraizoz to paw away just a few shots all game.
The result means that Athletic will now have the opportunity to win their first Copa Del Rey since 1984 whilst for Sevilla this surely signals the end to any dreams of silverware this season.
With all the big names back in the side, the home team came out all guns blazing and took the lead inside the first five minutes. Unsurprisingly, Llorente was involved in the goal as he flicked on a cross to Martinez, who saw his first effort blocked by Andres Palop, but he then smashed in the rebound. It was the perfect start for Athletic and as if San Mames wasn't loud enough already the volume got turned up as the men in red-and-white continued to surge forward.
Compared to the display at the weekend Athletic were full of confidence and Martinez forced a good save out of Palop after 10 minutes after some nice work by Yeste. Sevilla were simply getting over-run by their hosts and were reduced mainly to long-range efforts from the likes of Romaric early.
It seemed inevitable that Athletic would score again and they soon did, as Llorente added his name to the score sheet. The striker rose above two defenders in the box to head home from a Fran Yeste cross and send the fans in La Catedral wild. It got even better just a few minutes later too when David Prieto was caught out at the back by Llorente and the striker fed in Toquero on the left, who slid under Palop from close-range.
Going three behind finally sparked Sevilla to life and Gorka Iraizoz was called into action to make saves from both Freddy Kanoute and Jesus Navas. The Andalucians could not make the breakthrough before the whistle though and Manolo Jimenez sent on Diego Capel in place of Adriano at half-time to try and inspire a revival.
After the break it was still Athletic who dominated though, looking dangerous every time they came forward with the ball. Toquero very nearly played in Llorente but his ball was just a bit awkward for him, meaning he had to lay it off for Orbaiz to shoot at Palop, before Aitor Ocio had to clear a goal-bound header behind at the other end.
With the clock running down, Sevilla could not find a way past the Athletic defence and nearly got hit on the counter on a few occasions, with Toquero looking particularly lively. Kanoute did miss an open goal with his head as time was running out but even if he had scored it surely would have been too little to late. As it was the Basques managed to hold on to their lead comfortably, even with five minutes of injury time, much to the delight of the thousands packed in San Mames who roared as the final whistle blew.
James Walker-Roberts, Goal.com