Thu, Feb 09, 2012 - Page 18 News List

Bilbao end Mirandes’ dream run

MINNOWS MAULED:’Los Leones’ were ruthless in the first half, but Mirandes showed some of the courage and talent that have made them headline news after the break

Reuters, MADRID

Mirandes defender Aitor Blanco, center, scores as Athletic Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta, left, looks on in their Copa del Rey semi-final second-leg match at the San Mames in Bilbao, Spain, on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

Athletic Bilbao ended tiny Mirandes’ remarkable run with a ruthless 6-2 win in their Copa del Rey semi-final second leg on Tuesday to set up a final with either Barcelona or Valencia.

Iker Muniain, Markel Susaeta and Jon Aurtenetxe scored inside the opening 22 minutes at the San Mames, quickly extinguishing any chance of another giant-killing feat by their plucky visitors.

Fernando Llorente scored twice in four second-half minutes after Mirandes had pulled one back through defender Aitor Blanco, who also grabbed their second near the end.

Cesar Caneda put the ball in his own net two minutes from time as Bilbao, who have won the Copa 23 times, progressed 8-3 on aggregate.

“It’s incredible to be in another final after only a few years, we are delighted,” Llorente told Spanish television. “We knew we couldn’t afford to relax at all and the few times we did, they scored. I don’t care who we meet in the final, as long as we win. I had a bad experience with Barca, but we’ll give it our best whoever it is.”

Bilbao lost 4-1 to Barca in the 2009 Copa del Rey final.

Mirandes, who play in Spain’s Segunda B, knocked out top-flight sides Villarreal, Real Racing Club de Santander and RCD Espanyol to reach the last four, and they were only the second team from the third tier to do so in the competition’s current format.

Bilbao never gave the visitors time to settle and a failure to clear a cross in the 11th minute allowed Muniain to burst through the middle and fire in the opener.

Mirandes were still reeling three minutes later when the hosts strung together a series of passes that pulled the defense apart and Susaeta turned to slot away the second.

Aurtenetxe looped in a header to make it 3-0 and Mirandes did not manage to test Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz until the 35th minute, when Pablo Infante drilled a shot straight at him.

Mirandes showed some of the courage and talent that have made them headline news in Spain after the break and they were rewarded in the 58th minute when a rebound from a shot against the post was turned in by Blanco.

They flashed another effort wide of the post, before in-form Spain striker Llorente lobbed the visiting goalkeeper from outside the area in the 71st minute. He then slid in at the far post to notch his eighth goal in the last four matches.

Both sets of fans cheered their teams in the closing stages and Mirandes even hit the post before the referee blew the final whistle.

“It’s been an unforgettable experience and something we will remember for the rest of our lives,” Mirandes captain Pablo Infante said. “Now we need to focus on winning our league and getting promotion.”

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