• Europa League

Bilbao and Atletico to meet in the final

ESPN staff
April 26, 2012

Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid will contest an all-Spanish final of the Europa League next month, after edging through entertaining semi-final second legs on Thursday.

A late goal from Fernando Llorente ensured Bilbao claimed a 4-3 aggregate victory over Sporting at San Mames, while Adrian scored a wonderful volley to confirm a relatively comfortable 5-2 aggregate triumph for Atletico against Valencia in a game that also saw their captain Tiago sent off.

At the Mestalla, Atletico Madrid grabbed a 1-0 away win against Valencia to clinch the tie 5-2 on aggregate.

The game was marred by a second-half scuffle which saw Atletico Madrid captain Tiago dismissed for slapping Roberto Soldado, meaning he will miss the final.

Valencia, in desperate need of a good start, pushed hard for a goal throughout but were consistently thwarted by the outstanding Thibaut Courtois in the Atletico goal. And it was to be the Rojiblancos who took the lead through a moment of brilliance from striker Adrian.

The striker received the ball on his chest in the right channel, bringing the ball down before unleashing a fabulous right-footed volley into the opposite corner, past a helpless Diego Alves. The tie was as good as over, barring the late furore following confusion over a penalty decision.

In Bilbao, Athletic Club defeated Sporting 3-1, with a goal from Fernando Llorente in the last five minutes sending the Lions into the final in dramatic style.

The Basque side took an early lead as Markel Susaeta converted a fine team-move, half-volleying home after a chest down from Fernando Llorente. Minutes before half-time, Ricky van Wolfswinkel fired home from the edge of the area to level proceedings, before smart play from Llorente once more played in Ibai Gomez to restore Athletic's advantage.

With the tie level at 3-3 on aggregate and seemingly heading into extra-time it was once more the Gomez-Llorente axis that came up trumps.

The attacking midfielder turned his marker on the left, before firing across the face of goal for Llorente to turn home at the near post and send the San Mames into raptures.

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