Seville, Spain, Feb 4 (efe-epa).- Goalkeeper Unai Simon was the hero here Thursday for Athletic Club in their Copa del Rey quarterfinal tie with Real Betis, making two stops in the penalty shootout to put the Bilbao club in the final four.
It was the 11th time the two clubs have met in the Copa del Rey, including two finals. Athletic won in 1931, while Betis hoisted the trophy in 1977.
Both teams are on a run of good form.
Yet to lose in 2021, the hosts had posted six wins and two draws in their last eight matches.
Athletic had six victories and two defeats – both to Barcelona – coming into the clash at Seville’s Benito Villamarin stadium.
After a first half in which neither team wanted to take risks, late sub Juanmi Jimenez scored what looked to be the match winner for Betis in the 84th minute.
But the visitors drew level in the 94th minute on Raul Garcia’s header, forcing the contest to extra time.
The first overtime period saw only chance for each team and fatigue took hold in the second, when Betis’ pleas for a penalty after a foul against Juanmi were rejected by the referee and VAR.
Garcia, the author of the equalizer, took the first shot for Athletic and converted.
Aissa Mandi answered for the hosts, followed by Iñaki Williams for the visitors, but Simon denied Sergio Canales to give his side a 2-1 edge.
Athletic’s Jon Morcillo scored and then came Simon’s second stop, this time against Juanmi, setting the stage for Yuri Berchiche to put the Bilbao side in the semifinals along with Barcelona, Sevilla and Levante.
Afterward, Athletic coach Marcelino García Toral celebrated the “pick and shovel” victory.
“We are once again in the spotlight, which is what we wanted. We have demonstrated that we have faith to the end,” he said.
His counterpart, Manuel Pellegrini, said that the result left him and his players with a “sense of frustration” because they had been “30 seconds from winning” when Garcia leveled the score.
“The hope was great and the blow is hard, but we have shown ourselves to be competitive against a good rival. So we can fight for a high place in the (LaLiga) table,” the Chilean said. EFE cc/dr