Real Madrid, Athletic complete Copa del Rey final 4

Sports Desk, Jan 26 (EFE).- Real Madrid bested Atletico Madrid 3-1 in extra-time Thursday to grab the last spot in the Copa del Rey semifinals hours after Athletic Bilbao defeated Valencia by the same score in the battle for the third berth.

The penultimate stage will feature the top three Copa winners: Barcelona (31), Athletic (23) and Real Madrid (16), along with Osasuna, who have never lifted the trophy.

Diego Simeone’s men made a bold start on the Blancos’ home ground at the Santiago Bernabeu and Atleti took the lead in the 19th minute with a goal from Alvaro Morata.

The play began with Angel Correa’s ball to Koke, who relayed to World Cup winner Nahuel Molina, author of the cross into the six-yard box for the striker.

The hosts’ best chance of the opening period was a shot by Fede Valverde in the 25th minute that posed no serious problems for Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

Real Madrid seized the momentum in the second half, yet Oblak wasn’t pressed into action again until the 58th minute, when he did very well to deny Karim Benzema.

Blancos keeper Thibaut Courtois tipped an Antoine Griezmann free kick over the bar in the 73rd to keep the deficit to one goal. Six minutes later, Real Madrid pulled level with a goal by sub Rodrygo, who beat four defenders before nudging the ball past Oblak.

Memphis Depay, in his second game for Atletico since coming over from Barcelona, fired over the cross-bar in the 92nd minute and the contest went to extra time.

With six minutes left in the first additional period, Atleti defender Stefan Savic picked up a second yellow card in the space of 120 seconds and the visitors went down to 10 men, setting the stage for Benzema to put the Blancos ahead in the 104th minute after Vinicius Jr. flubbed a chance.

But the Brazilian would come back to make it 3-1 in the dying seconds.

In Valencia, Athletic’s Iker Muniain opened the scoring in the 35th minute thanks to a blunder by Mouctar Diakhaby, who would go on to redeem himself in the 43rd as the instigator of an own goal by Oscar De Marcos.

The deadlock lasted only two minutes, however, as Nico Williams – assisted by big brother Iñaki – gave Athletic a 2-1 lead at the break with a goal in the 45th minute.

The home side failed to create much on the attack in the second half and their remaining hopes evaporated in the 74th minute, when Mikel Vesga converted from the spot after VAR spotted a foul on Nico Williams by Cenk Ozkacar. EFE rmm-sm/dr

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