Pablo Ibañez’s extra-time goal sends Osasuna into Copa del Rey final

Bilbao, Spain, Apr 4 (EFE).- Midfielder Pablo Ibañez scored a remarkable goal late in extra time here Tuesday night to lift Osasuna to a 2-1 win on aggregate over Athletic Bilbao and send the club into just its second-ever Copa del Rey final.

The outcome was a tough pill to swallow for the home side, which attempted 23 shots to Osasuna’s eight and forced 18 corner kicks to the visitors’ zero at San Mames stadium.

Athletic had full control of the second-leg contest in the first half, although strong goalkeeping by Osasuna net minder Sergio Herrera kept the game scoreless until shortly after the half-hour mark.

Finally, in the 33rd minute, Ernesto Valverde’s men broke through on a play in which Mikel Vesga headed on a corner kick sent in by captain Iker Muniain.

The ball traveled in front of the goal mouth, where Iñaki Williams beat a defender to the spot and volleyed his shot just under the crossbar to snap a lengthy goal drought.

The visitors tried to respond immediately with a cross-shot from the left side by Kike Garcia, but Athletic goalie Julen Agirrezabala was there to snuff out the opportunity.

Iñaki Williams then appeared to double Athletic’s lead (and give the home side a 2-1 edge on aggregate) shortly before the intermission, but the goal was disallowed for offside.

Even so, Los Leones appeared poised to deliver the knockout blow early in the second half when they produced three golden opportunities for Nico Williams, Oihan Sancet and Iñigo Martinez.

But Nico misfired his attempt far over the crossbar, while Osasuna captain David Garcia made an outstanding defensive play to deny Sancet and Martinez was unable to put home a cross that had bounded its way past all of Osasuna’s defenders.

Herrera, meanwhile, made key contributions throughout and continued his strong play in extra time when he cleared away a header by Vesga off of a Muniain corner.

Osasuna finally started showing some signs of life in attack toward the end of the first half of extra time, although Argentine forward Chimy Avila’s shot sailed high over Agirrezabala’s goal.

Then, just as it seemed this semifinal contest would be decided by penalties, Ibañez received a cross from Jon Moncayola at the edge of the box and volleyed a spectacular strike in the 116th minute that Agirrezabala was powerless to stop.

Next up for Osasuna in the May 6 final will be either FC Barcelona or Real Madrid.

The Catalans lead that other semifinal 1-0 heading in to the second leg, which will be played at Camp Nou on Wednesday night.

Osasuna’s only previous appearance in a Copa del Rey final came in 2004-2005, when they lost to Real Betis.

Barcelona has won a record 31 Copa del Rey championships, while Real Madrid has captured 19 titles. EFE


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