fairytale King's Cup run looked in danger of ending after
Fernando Llorente scored twice to give visiting Athletic Bilbao
a 2-1 win in their semi-final first leg on Tuesday.
Having disposed of La Liga clubs Villarreal, Racing
Santander and Espanyol in previous rounds, the lowly club from
Miranda de Ebro are dreaming of a final against Barcelona or
However, they were rocked on their heels when Llorente
netted his fifth goal in two games to put the visitors two
The burly Spain striker, who fired a hat-trick in Sunday's
3-2 La Liga win at Rayo Vallecano, nodded home a fine Oscar De
Marcos centre for a 17th-minute lead.
The festive atmosphere on a chilly northern Spanish night at
Mirandes's 6,000-capacity stadium dampened further when Llorente
drilled a low shot into the bottom corner.
However, Mirandes, who have an annual budget of just over
1.2 million euros compared to Bilbao's of around
60 million, came out fighting in the second half and Hartiz
Mujika clipped the top of the crossbar in the 64th minute.
Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz pulled off a brilliant save
from Alvaro Corral's volley 15 minutes from time as the home
side pressed forward.
Their efforts were finally rewarded in the first minute of
added-time when Ander Lambarri drove an angled shot into the far
The goal gave Mirandes a sliver of hope they can turn the
tie around at the San Mames next week but Llorente was confident
Bilbao would be able to hold them off.
"Conceding at the end was a shame as 2-0 would have been a
great result but 2-1 is pretty good too," he told Spanish
"We really want to reward our fans with a trip to the final
and let's see if we have luck in the return leg," he added.
Mirandes's unlikely cup exploits, only the second time a
team from the Segunda B has reached the last four of the
competition in its current format, have captured the imagination
in Spain, where Barca and their even wealthier arch rivals Real
Madrid dominate domestic competition.
Barca visit Valencia in Wednesday's second semi-final. Pep Guardiola's side, who disposed of holders Real in the
quarter-finals, are without the injured Andres Iniesta and Pedro
for the game at the Mestalla.
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