Sports Desk, Jan 20 (EFE).- Real Madrid needed an additional 30 minutes Thursday to overcome a fearless Elche and reach the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, while holders Barcelona saw their title defense end with a loss to Athletic Club in an extra-time thriller.
On paper, the match between the LaLiga leaders and a club sitting 15th in the table should have been an easy win for Real Madrid, but Elche had other ideas.
The hosts came out aggressively and were poised to go ahead in the 12th minute when Guido Carrillo shot from close range, but the Elche striker hit the cross-bar.
Though Real Madrid seized the initiative as the minutes passed, the game remained scoreless at the break and the first real test for Elche goalkeeper Axel Werner did not come until the 78th minute, when he had to swat away a blast from Casemiro.
Minutes later, Vinicius Jr. fired the ball straight at Werner, and the teams ended regulation knotted 0-0.
In the 12th minute of the first extra time, Marcelo tripped Elche’s Tete Morente in the box and the referee pulled out the red card, leaving the Blancos to play the rest of the contest with 10 men.
Gonzalo Verdu drilled the resulting free kick into the wall, but hammered the rebound into the crowd of bodies and it deflected into the net to put Elche up 1-0.
The advantage lasted only five minutes, as a Dani Ceballos effort bounced off Isco Alarcon and past Werner early in the second extra time.
With a penalty shootout looming, 90th-minute sub Eden Hazard drew Werner off his line and then maneuvered around the keeper to score the match winner.
In Bilbao, Athletic showed no sign of a hangover from their loss to Real Madrid last Sunday in the Spanish Supercup final and captain Iker Muniain staked the home side to a 1-0 lead in just the 2nd minute.
Former Manchester City Ferran Torres equalized for Barça in the 20th minute with a tremendous strike, yet Athletic continued to set the pace and Nico Williams forced a save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen just past the half-hour.
The score was still 1-1 in the 84th minute when Iñaki Williams – Nico’s older brother – hit the cross-bar. But Athletic would reclaim the lead just two minutes later with a goal by Iñigo Martinez.
In the third of the posted five minutes of stoppage time, Pedri brought the Blaugrana level for a second time.
The contest would turn on a mistake by Jordi Alba, who took the risk of blocking a Nico Williams cross with his arm. VAR looked at the play and it was ruled a hand ball.
Muniain converted with the final kick of the first extra time and Athletic held on to book their ticket to the quarterfinals.
The Bilbao club have won the Copa del Rey 23 times, second only to Barcelona’s 31. EFE