January 21, 2016 7:25:12 pm
Atletico Madrid and Celta Vigo played to a 0-0 draw and Barcelona defeated Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.
Barcelona got the away victory but Aritz Aduriz’s late goal kept Athletic alive going into next week’s second leg at the Camp Nou. Atletico and Celta will play the return match at the Vicente Calderon Stadium in Madrid, where Atletico has won its last nine matches.
Atletico relied on solid defending to keep the hosts from scoring, but Diego Simeone’s team failed to take its chances on counterattacks.
Celta nearly scored in the 82nd but Gabi Fernandez cleared the ball just in front of the goal line to maintain the deadlock.
“It was an open match, but they had more ball possession,” Simeone said. “Now any draw other than 0-0 will benefit them. We need the victory at any cost.”
The sides had met in the Spanish league just 10 days ago, with Atletico winning 2-0 in Vigo.
Atletico Madrid leads the Spanish league with 47 points from 20 games. Barcelona is two points behind from 19 games. Celta is fifth with 34 points, also from 20 games.
Barcelona was set for a 2-0 win at the San Mames in Bilbao, but Aduriz found the net in the 89th after Barcelona defender Dani Alves failed to clear a ball from inside the area.
Athletic almost equalized a couple of minutes later after a ball deflected in front of the goal, but Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a good save to secure the win.
Munir El Haddadi gave Barcelona the lead in the 18th after a cross by Ivan Rakitic, and Brazil striker Neymar increased the lead in the 25th after a long ball sent into the area.
“Athletic pressured a lot,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “It was complicated, but I’m satisfied with the result despite conceding the late goal.”
The Catalan club got the win _ its fifth in a row _ despite playing without Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Messi was rested after receiving a knock on his right leg in the Spanish league game against Athletic over the weekend, while Suarez served the last of his a two-game suspension for insulting Espanyol opponents in the first leg of the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey.
Suarez, the Spanish league’s top scorer with 18 goals, netted a hat trick in Barcelona’s 6-0 rout of Athletic in the league on Sunday. The Basque club played that game with 10 men after goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz was sent off for a foul that prompted a penalty kick to Barcelona in the fourth minute.
The quarterfinal matchup is a rematch of last year’s final in the Copa del Rey, which Barcelona won 3-1. The teams also met in the Spanish Super Cup final a few weeks later, when Bilbao came out on top to win its first major title in more than 30 years.
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