Sat, Jan 07, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Barca beaten by nine-man Bilbao

AP, BILBAO, Spain

Barcelona’s two-year reign as Copa del Rey holders is in jeopardy after they lost to nine-man Athletic Bilbao 2-1 at a packed San Mames on Thursday.

Athletic played a man down from the 74th minute and two men down from the 80th because of red cards in a drama-filled first leg in the round-of-16.

Aritz Aduriz scored and set up another goal in the first half for Athletic, before Lionel Messi scored for Barcelona from a free-kick early in the second half.

Messi hit the post from inside the penalty area three minutes into stoppage-time, with Paco Alcacer missing the open net from the rebound.

“We reacted well and deserved a draw for all the chances we created,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “We just lacked that touch of precision in front of goal.”

Athletic beat Barcelona for only the third time in 32 matches over the past 10 years. In that period, Barcelona have beaten Athletic in three Copa del Rey finals, won their past three La Liga matches and won both legs of their quarter-final last year, but a draw next week in the second leg at the Camp Nou would be enough to send Athletic to the quarter-finals.

“We are happy,” Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde said. “We earned a small advantage and we will try to maintain it in the second leg.”

Athletic took control early as Aduriz’s header opened the scoring in the 25th minute and Inaki Williams padded the lead after a pass by Aduriz in the 28th.

Messi pulled Barcelona closer by converting a free-kick in the 52nd minute, with the ball just barely crossing the line after an attempted save by Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz.

Second yellow cards for midfielders Raul Garcia and Ander Iturraspe reduced Athletic, who then had to endure a siege by the visitors.

Athletic’s only loss at San Mames this season was against Barcelona in their first home game in La Liga. Since then, they have won 11 games and drawn one.

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