European Cup Roundup: Barcelona win while Atletico draw, Liverpool and Tottenham progress
The midweek FA Cup action saw the favourites progress, while Barcelona and Atletico set up comfortable second legs
Copa Del Rey
Neymar and Munir El-Haddadi gave Barcelona a crucial 2-1 lead in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal against Athletic Bilbao. Athletico Madrid, on the other hand, could only manage a goalless draw away to Celta Vigo in their quarterfinal first leg.
Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Barcelona
Barcelona took a vital lead in their quarter final first leg away to Athletic Bilbao at the San Mames stadium. The Blaugrana were without the services of Lionel Messi,who was rested and Luis Suarez, who was suspended; but still managed to take an early two goal lead with Bilbao scoring a late solitary goal.
With the 6-0 hammering last week fresh in their minds, Bilbao started the game with purpose, looking to make amends. However, in the 18th minute, Barcelona took the lead through Munir El-Haddadi. Ivan Rakitic and Arda Turan combined in a stunning 12 second counter attack down the right wing, allowing the Croatian to curve a low cross round a defender and find Munir, who managed to slide home a finish into the bottom corner.
Barcelona doubled their lead in the 25th minute, with Neymar scoring for the fifth game in succession against his Basque opponents. Andres Iniesta picked out Sergi Roberto on the left wing, and the makeshift left back chipped a teasing pass into Neymar’s path which had Bilbao keeper Iago Herrerin rushing out. The 2nd choice Basque custodian missed both Neymar and the ball with his tackle, allowing the Brazilian to slot into an empty net.
With a 2-0 lead, Barcelona sat back in the second half, as Bilbao came at them with increased attacking intent. The Basque side had a couple of efforts from Aritz Aduriz, but came closest with Mikel San Jose’s near post header from a corner in the 80th minute that Barcelona keeper Andre Ter Stegen did well to turn away.
Bilbao were gifted a route back into the tie in the 89th minute, as Dani Alves bungled a clearance and passed the ball to San Jose, who shaped to shoot but picked out an unmarked Aduriz in the box, who calmly slotted the ball with his left foot past Ter Stegen, which meant the game finished with a fairer scoreline.
Celta Vigo 0-0 Atletico Madrid
Atletico Madrid were unable to breach the Celta Vigo goal in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quartefinal at the Estadio de Balaidos. Diego Simeone’s men failed to convert multiple chances on the counter-attack, after the two sides cancelled each other out for most of the game.
Jackson Martinez is undergoing a goal-drought and spurned an early chance to open the scoring, as he skied an inviting cross from Filipe Luis on the left. Celta Vigo did not let the early chance perturb them, as they dominated possession for the rest of the half but failed to create a clear-cut chance, with their talisman Nolito still unavailable due to a hamstring injury.
Martinez fashioned a chance all of his own making at the start of the second half, but Celta keeper Ruben Blanco did well to turn away the Colombian’s curling, left-footed effort past the post. The Rojiblancos should have been ahead in the 75th minute, but substitute Angel Correa conspired to head over from six yards in the 75th minute.
Celta nearly profited from a terrible error in the 82nd minute, as Atletico midfielder Augusto Fernandez managed to toe poke the ball past his keeper, but Gabi scrambled back to clear the ball off the line, thus preserving the scoreline which means Atletico have to win their home leg to go through to the semifinal.
Tottenham registered a 2-0 win away to Leicester City to progress to the fourth round, while Liverpool thumped Exeter 3-0 in their replayy at Anfield.
Leicester City 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur overcame a disappointing Leicester City in their FA Cup third round replay, as Heung-min Son inspired them to a 2-0 victory after the two high-flying Premier League teams played out a thrilling 2-2 draw in the first leg at White Hart Lane.
Despite the King Power Stadium in full noise, Tottenham Hotspur started the brighter of the two sides. The Lilywhites confirmed their dominance in the 39th minute, as Son opened the scoring for Spurs. Tom Carroll was credited with an assist, but the goal was entirely of Son’s making, as the Korean lashed home a swerving long range effort past Kasper Schmeichel into the top corner.
Demarai Gray responded for Leicester with a similar effort at the start of the second half, but Michel Vorm was equal to his effort. Son cemented his man-of-the-match award in the 66th minute, as he produced a wonderful through ball to put Nacer Chadli through on the left, with the Belgian tucking away a neat finish under Schmeichel to complete the victory for Spurs.
Gray and Marc Albrighton went close for Leicester towards the end, but Vorm was at his best to ensure Spur’s progress to a fourth round FA Cup clash with Colchester United.
Liverpool 3-0 Exeter City
Liverpool shrugged off the disappointing performance of their previous match against Exeter City, which ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw, to register a thumping 3-0 win in the replay at Anfield to qualify for the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Brad Smith equalised for Liverpool in the first leg, and the Australian youngster was similarly instrumental in the first goal, as he combined with Christian Benteke on the left wing, and sent in a low cross for Joe Allen to neatly tuck away from close range, putting Liverpool 1-0 up in the 10th minute.
Liverpool dominated the possession for the rest of the half, and began the second half similarly. The Reds doubled their lead in the 74th minute, as Ibe won the ball back in the middle of the pitch before setting up Sheyi Ojo on the right wing. The Liverpool youngster took a touch with his left foot, before exquisitely curling the ball with his instep into the top corner of the net.
In the 82nd minute, Christian Benteke eschewed the notion that he is nothing more than a beanpole striker, as he dribbled from the halfway line, riding past multiple challenges before finding Joao Carlos Teixeira in space. The 23 year old completed the scoring for Liverpool, with a well judged finish that sends the Reds through to the fourth round of the FA Cup, where they will meet West Ham.