vrijdag 27 april 2012

Europa league - semi final

Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Sporting Lisbon (Agg 4-3)
Stunning performance from Llorente capped by winning goal as Basques book final berth
The hosts overturned last week's 2-1 loss in the Portuguese capital, with a late goal from the Spain striker securing the victory and a final date with Atletico Madrid

Ander Iturraspe, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Athletic Bilbao, Sporting Lisbon
Athletic Bilbao booked their place in the Europa League final against Atletico Madrid with a 3-1 victory over Sporting Lisbon at San Mames, to progress 4-3 on aggregate after a breathless contest.

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.

It was the Portuguese side who came out of the blocks quicker. A poorly-cleared Matias Fernandez corner fell to Anderson Polga, who could only head the ball straight at Gorka Iraizoz when he should have done better.

Soon after, the Chilean sent a free kick well over from distance, but it was not long before the hosts sprung into action. 

Llorente brought the ball down well seconds after Fernandez's free kick, but when he finally wriggled free of Xandao, he failed to send a meaningful shot in.

Bielsa's side were starting to apply heavy pressure. Some fantastic footwork from Gomez fooled the Sporting back line, but the 22-year-old could only fire a shot straight at Rui Patricio.

Soon, however, the breakthrough arrived. Llorente padded an Iker Muniain cross straight to Susaeta, who volleyed past Patricio to put his side in front. 

The Bilbao goal would have seen the hosts go through on away goals, but Sporting soon set in pursuit of an equaliser.

Diego Capel, the hero of the first leg, sent a deep cross to the far post, but Andre Martin could only send a header wide when he should have done far better. Soon afterwards, Iraizoz was called into action to palm away an Polga header after the Brazilian found himself on the end of Capel's corner.

Throughout Sporting's period of pressure, Athletic continued to fashion chances. Gomez had a header rightly ruled out for offside, before Llorente squeezed a volley goalwards, forcing Patricio to palm the ball away with his fingertips.

The equalier finally came just before the break, though. Another corner proved to be the cause of confusion in the Bilbao defence, and Van Wolfswinkel capitalised by sending a left-footed volley into the bottom corner.

However, the Dutchman's effort was not enough to ensure parity at the break. Llorente held up the ball fantastically once again, and slipped in Gomez, who placed it past Patricio to level the tie. 

The frantic nature of the game continued when the two teams reemerged for the second half. Susaeta forced Patricio into a fantastic save with a speculative effort from the corner of the box, and Javi Martinez sent the resulting corner against the bar.

At the other end, the woodwork soon turned into Athletic's saviour. Emiliano Insua belted a ferocious free kick goal-wards, and a heavy deflection took the ball past Iraizoz, but onto the post.

Soon, though, the match settled into a more steady rhythm. Muniain forced a decent save from Patricio with a tame header, before the Portuguese keeper had Insua to thank when he dropped an Ibai free kick, only for the Argentine to remove the danger, hacking the ball off the line.

Finally, the Portuguese resistance was broken with just 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.

In the wake of the goal, Sporting sent the ball long in an effort to steal a place in the final, but it was to no avail: it was Bilbao's night, and they can now look forward to an all-Spanish final in Romania next month.

Valencia 0 - 1 Atlético Madrid
Atletico Madrid's Adrian overjoyed with reaching Europa League final
The striker proved to be the ace in the pack for Diego Simeone's men as he netted the winner in the 1-0 victory over Los Che at Mestalla on Thursday to see his side progress

Radamel Falcao, Adrian, Atletico Madrid, Valencia
Atletico Madrid attacker Adrian is overjoyed to have reached the Europa League final at the expense of Valencia.

The Rojiblancos recorded a 4-2 home win in the first leg of their semi-final tie last week, and beat Los Che 1-0 at Mestalla in the return on Thursday to book their ticket for the showpiece in Bucharest on May 9.

"I am delighted. We could not have asked for anything more. We have worked very hard both in La Liga and the Europa League. We put in a tremendous effort and were rewarded for it with a good result," Adrian was quoted as saying by AS.

"We knew that they would start with attacking intentions, so it was crucial to keep them quiet early on. We managed to hold on, and cruised to victory after the interval.

"It says a lot about Spanish teams that there are two of us in the final. It will be a great game."

Atletico will lock horns with Athletic Bilbao in the final on May 9.


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