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Barca beats Bilbao, Celta ousts Atletico to reach Copa semis

28 January 2016, 07:35

Barcelona — Goals from Neymar and Luis Suarez helped Barcelona fight back to beat Athletic Bilbao 3-1 and reach the Copa del Rey semifinals on Wednesday, while Celta Vigo eliminated Atletico Madrid.

Despite leading 2-1 after the first leg of their rematch of last year's final at Camp Nou, holder Barcelona was dominated for most of the first half and trailed 1-0 on the night after Inaki Williams' 12th-minute goal.

The second half, however, was all Barcelona's after Suarez calmed the home fans in the 53rd.

Visibly tired from their first half efforts, Bilbao wilted before Gerard Pique and Neymar made it 5-2 on aggregate with less than 10 minutes left.

"We played a poor first half," Suarez said. "We knew that Athletic pressures well and they made it difficult for us to control the ball. But we went out after halftime with a different attitude and won the game."

In Madrid, Pablo Hernandez scored twice as Celta demolished Atletico's vaunted defense with a 3-2 victory after a scoreless first leg.

The match at Camp Nou bore no resemblance to the 6-0 thrashing Bilbao received here less than two weeks ago in the Spanish league.

Also Read: Before Liga clash, Barca & Atletico aims to advance in Copa

Bilbao's pressure succeeded in disrupting a Barcelona side that had midfielders Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets on the bench, and the visitors' talented pair of strikers made the most of their surprisingly greater share of possession.

Aritz Aduriz set up Williams' goal with a great pass from near the halfway line to meet his run. The forward did the rest by rounding goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and rolling the ball home.

Nervous whistles were heard as Barcelona failed to venture forward, and Williams and Aduriz kept mounting up shots.

Neymar, who scored one goal in the first leg, tried to even up the contest and almost got the equalizer when goalie Iago Herrerin blocked his shot before halftime.

Barcelona tilted the match in its favor when Lionel Messi was played through by a lobbed pass from Sergi Roberto and the Argentina playmaker squared the ball for Suarez to score.

Bilbao was still one goal away from forcing extra time, but Barcelona took charge of the match in the closing stages.

Pique headed in Barcelona's second in the 81st minute before Neymar blasted a left-foot shot into the top corner of the net in stoppage time to cap the Brazil striker's impressive performance.

"We showed that we can play with Barcelona, but we know that they have the best three attacking players in the world, and that this is what can happen," Herrerin said.

In the capital, Hernandez scored with a header against the flow of play in the 22nd minute to end Atletico's run of five consecutive clean sheets.

Antoine Griezmann leveled for the hosts shortly after, but John Guidetti and Hernandez struck early in the second half before Atletico substitute Angel Correa scored with eight minutes left.

It was Atletico's first loss at its Vicente Calderon Stadium since Sept. 30, and the first time it had conceded three goals all season.

Simeone's side, which also lost the league's top spot over the weekend after a scoreless draw at home, will have to rediscover both its defensive poise and scoring touch for Saturday's visit to Barcelona with the league lead on the line.

In Thursday's quarterfinal second-leg matches, Sevilla takes a 2-0 lead to second-division Mirandes, while Valencia visits Las Palmas after a 1-1 draw.

- AP


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