Sat, Dec 21, 2013 - Page 19 News List

Iker Muniain celebrates his birthday with brace

HAPPY 21ST:Muniain’s Athletic Bilbao crushed 10-man RC Celta de Vigo 4-0 to set up a tie against Real Betis Balompie, while Valencia settled for a nervy 1-0 victory

AP, BARCELONA, Spain

Valencia head coach Nico Estevez gives instructions to his players in their Copa del Rey match against Gimnastic de Tarragona in Valencia, Spain, on Thursday.

Photo: EPA

Athletic Bilbao forward Iker Muniain celebrated his 21st birthday in style on Thursday, scoring two goals and setting up another to send the Basque side into the Copa del Rey’s round-of-16 in a 4-0 victory over 10-man RC Celta de Vigo.

Bilbao overturned a 1-0 loss in the first leg at Celta and advance to face Real Betis Balompie.

Muniain opened the scoring with a long-range strike in the 21st minute at the San Mames Barria, after Bilbao’s pressure led to Ibai Gomez stealing the ball from Michael Krohn-Dehli in Celta territory.

Markel Susaeta slipped behind his marker to tap home Ibai Gomez’s cross to put Bilbao ahead on aggregate one minute before halftime.

Already struggling to make any impact in the final third, Celta’s chances were further undermined in the 53rd minute when defender Hugo Mallo was dismissed after receiving a second yellow card.

Muniain scored his second goal in the 80th minute, before he sent Aritz Aduriz clear to cap the win five minutes from time.

Despite the assist, Aduriz said Muniain could foot the bill for the party.

“He gets to pay,” Aduriz said. “Wow. Two goals on his birthday? It’s his turn to pay.”

Also on Thursday, Valencia moved on after a nervy 1-0 win over third-tier Gimnastic de Tarragona, Rayo Vallecano de Madrid advanced after rallying to beat 10-man Valladolid 3-1 and RCD Espanyol defeated second-tier Real Jaen 2-0 for a 4-2 win on aggregate.

With interim coach Nico Estevez making his debut in place of the fired Miroslav Djukic and the tie poised at 0-0 after the first leg, Pablo Alcacer headed Valencia’s winner in the 37th minute, but the hosts never took control at the Estadio Mestalla.

Helder Postiga had a penalty saved in the 88th minute and it needed a stoppage-time save from goalkeeper Vicente Guaita for Valencia to survive.

The brush with an early exit earned the team a mixture of cheers and jeers after the final whistle.

Djukic was fired on Monday, a day after Valencia were humbled 3-0 at Atletico Madrid, leaving them midtable in La Liga and far from a desired top-four finish. Djukic was the financially stricken club’s third coach in a year and a half.

“We needed this win. It helps our morale after all that has happened this week,” Alcacer said. “The game was complicated. You could see that Nastic are a good team, but we did what we had to do to move on.”

Valencia face defending champions Atletico in the next round, to be played next month.

Rayo midfielder Adrian Gonzalez netted a brace to help beat Valladolid and set up a meeting with Levante UD.

Espanyol play AD Alcorcon after easing past Jaen with goals by Simao Sabrosa and Sidnei.

The other round-of-16 fixtures see Barcelona face Getafe, Real Madrid take on CA Osasuna, Real Sociedad take on Villarreal and UD Almeria face off against Racing de Santander.

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