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Athletic Bilbao top Levante for spot in Copa del Rey final

Valencia, Spain, Mar 4 (efe-epa).- Alejandro Berenguer’s goal in the 112th minute made the difference here Thursday for Athletic Club in their Copa del Rey semifinal tie with Levante.

The Bilbao side prevailed 1-2 on the night and 2-3 on aggregate to set up a final between the two clubs who have between them hoisted the Copa trophy 54 times.

Barcelona will be in pursuit of a record-extending 31st triumph in the competition, while Athletic is looking for a 25th Copa del Rey title that would also be their first since 1984.

Level at 1-1 after the first leg in Bilbao, the teams stuck with their trademark styles. The visitors emphasized possession and the hosts looked for chances on the counter.

Coach Paco Lopez’s approach looked like the right one when Levante scored on just their second foray into Athletic’s end of the pitch.

Jose Luis Morales and Ruben Rochina to set up Roger Marti in front of the Athletic goal. Keeper Unai Simon blocked the initial shot, but the Levante striker struck home on the rebound to give his side a 2-1 edge in the tie.

Athletic’s Iker Muniain sent his header wide on a chance to equalize in the 24th minute, but Levante got only a brief reprieve, as the referee pointed to the spot four minutes later after Oscar Duarte brought down Raul Garcia in the box.

Garcia stepped to the spot and blasted the ball through the hands of keeper Aitor Fernandez to make it 2-2 overall.

The second half saw only a handful of chances and the contest went to extra-time. Having made it to the end of regulation without making any changes, Athletic coach Marcelino Garcia Toral had all of his substitutions available to replace tired legs for the additional 30 minutes.

Unai Simon had to be on his toes to stop Enis Bardhi from putting Levante ahead on the final play of the first extra period.

The match was in the 112th minute when Berenguer gathered the ball in midfield and backed up the Levante defense before trying his luck from 25 yards.

The shot took a deflection off Levante’s Nikola Vukcevic and into the net to give Athletic the advantage.

Coke’s bid to equalize for the hosts in the dying seconds missed the mark. EFE

ag/dr

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