Sat, Jan 24, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Bilbao held at home by Sporting

TURNING POINT Fernando Liorente missed a penalty for the home side, who have it all to do in Gijon next week, while Mallorca edged Real Betis 1-0 in the other tie

AP , BILBAO, SPAIN

Fernando Llorente missed a first-half penalty as Sporting Gijon left Athletic Bilbao with a 0-0 draw in the first leg of a Copa del Rey quarter-final on Thursday.

Athletic striker Llorente sent his 28th-minute spot kick over the top right corner of the goal, squandering a chance for the 23-time champions to take an advantage in the two-leg tie.

Sporting garnered the momentum at San Mames Stadium after the miss, but couldn’t score an away goal as Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz made several stops to keep it even on aggregate going into next week’s return leg at Sporting.

“It was very fair, a just result,” Sporting coach Manuel Preciado said. “It’s an open tie and this worked out great for us. Home field advantage is going to be a big factor.”

Both teams started cautiously, with Spain striker Llorente getting over a crowd to head Andoni Iraola’s cross from the left over the crossbar in the 18th minute for the game’s first chance on goal.

David Barral curled a right-footed shot wide of the near post in the 22nd minute to quell Athletic’s momentum. Moments later, Llorente blocked Barral’s angled shot from close-up during a goalmouth scramble.

Neru Ayesa was booked for muscling Llorente to the ground as the Spain striker went searching for a cross inside the area and received a chance to score from the spot.

“Missing the penalty definitely changed things,” Athletic coach Joaquin Caparros said. “We know we have to score a goal and that if we don’t then it’s over.”

Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz tipped Alberto Lora’s rising shot over in the 32nd minute and was well-positioned for Rafael Sastre’s deflection just after, as Sporting, twice finalists, improved.

Iraizoz dived to his right to stop Barral’s hard free-kick in the 43rd minute.

“We came here looking to get some chances and had a couple of opportunities,” Preciado said. “It just wouldn’t be.”

Athletic’s Javi Martinez started the second half by heading just wide in the 50th minute, but Sporting continued to press, with Sastre coming close in the 53rd minute.

The matchup of northern coastal clubs mostly stalled as neither team could penetrate the other’s area effectively enough for a scoring chance, with Llorente weakly heading a corner into the arms of Sporting goalkeeper Sergio Sanchez in the 88th minute.

“It’s wide open, there’s still a lot to play for,” Caparros said.

Alhassane Keita scored in the 65th minute as Real Mallorca pulled out a 1-0 win over Real Betis in their quarter-final match.

The Guinea striker scored with a low-angled shot from the right as Mallorca stayed unbeaten in five cup matches, while still languishing in 19th in the league.

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