Valencia draw badly in first leg of Cup semi-final in Bilbao
Bilbao, 11 Feb. (IANS) Athletic Bilbao and Valencia drew 1-1 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final at the San Mames stadium after 90 minutes of moody football.
Valencia did their best to break up the home side and earned their reward with a second-half goal from Hugo Duro, giving them a slight advantage going into the second leg in three weeks.
Duro took advantage of a stray ball after home keeper Julen Aguirrezabala produced a reflex save to deny Bryan Gil following a cross from Gonzalo Guedes.
It was clear from the start that it was not going to be a smooth game of football, with Valencia pressing high up the pitch and looking to prevent their rivals from moving the ball comfortably.
Duro headed a Jose Luis Gaya cross over the bar for Athletic, while Dimitri Foulquier and Thierry Correa combined well down the right for the visitors, who kept breaking the game for the home team with a series of fouls, reports Xinhua. It wasn’t until the 31st minute that Inaki Williams found space on the right, but he could only shoot Giorgi Mamardashvili from a tight angle.
Athletic took the lead in the 37th minute when Iker Muniain was knocked down on the edge of Valencia’s box and Raul Garcia returned his free-kick with a header from close range.
Williams nearly doubled the lead a minute later after Diakhaby slipped into the box, but the Valencia striker recovered just in time to clear the ball away from the striker.
Diakhaby then had the misfortune to escape punishment on the stroke of half-time when he pushed Garcia to the ground as tempers frayed.
The second half was similar to the first, with Athletic unable to find the rhythm that characterizes their football, with Valencia allowed to produce an insidious flood of fouls by a referee who tolerated their constant interruptions.
After Duro’s equaliser, Athletic was unresponsive and was relieved when the referee did not award a penalty after Duro fell in the Athletic area following light contact from Dani Vivian.
On the other side, Diakhaby made a vital last-minute clearance as it looked like Asier Villalibre was on the verge of heading home a late winner.
In the first semi-final on February 9, Real Betis won 2-1 at Rayo Vallecano to take a big step towards the final.