Athletic, Levante draw 1-1 in Copa del Rey semifinal 1st leg

Bilbao, Spain, Feb 11 (efe-epa).- Athletic Bilbao and Levante battled to a 1-1 draw here Thursday in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal, leaving the tie to be decided next month in Valencia.

It was a game of two halves. The visitors, in pursuit of their first trip to the Copa final, were the better side for the opening 45 minutes, but the hosts dominated after the break.

Levante’s Paco Lopez was likely the happier of the two coaches thanks to his side’s picking up what could turn out to be a valuable away goal.

Visiting goalkeeper Dani Cardenas was steady, while defender Oscar Duarte made crucial blocks to deny scoring chances for Iñaki Williams and Alex Berenguer.

After an early foray by Williams, the initiative shifted more and more to Levante, culminating in Gonzalo Melero’s goal in the 26th minute.

The Levante midfielder found himself unmarked and had time to beat keeper Unai Simon after flubbing his first attempt and the visitors withstood the reaction from Athletic to reach half-time leading 0-1.

Unhappy with his squad’s performance, Athletic coach Marcelino Garcia Toral made a triple-substitution to start the second half and the team got the message, creating three chances in the first seven matches – all three of them saved by Cardenas.

But the Levante keeper couldn’t stop Iñigo Martinez’s header off a corner in the 58th minute as Iker Muniain earned his seventh assist in the 10 matches since Toral took charge of the team.

Yeray had a chance to make it 2-1 for Athletic in stoppage time, but Cardenas dealt with the shot. EFE ro/dr

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