Athletic Bilbao set up a mouthwatering Basque derby against Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey final as Yuri Berchiche’s late strike saw them progress on the away-goals rule after a 2-1 defeat to Granada.
Having headed into Thursday’s clash leading in the tie thanks to Iker Muniain’s goal in the first leg, Bilbao looked down and out after Granada turned the contest around in the second half.
With Carlos Fernandez breaking the deadlock shortly after the interval, German Sanchez’s towering header seemed to have secured Granada’s first appearance in a Copa del Rey final since the 1958-59 season.
Yet it was 23-time Copa winners Bilbao who prevailed – Berchiche keeping his cool from close range to secure a 2-2 aggregate draw but, most importantly, a vital away goal, to book his side’s place in the final on April 18.
Having hardly been tested by an ambitious long-range attempt from Raul Garcia, Granada goalkeeper Rui Silva had to be at his best in the 23rd minute, brilliantly preventing a Victor Diaz own goal.
Silva was beaten by a close-range Mikel San Jose effort which flashed wide soon after, before Garcia blazed over from Inaki Williams’ cutback.
Williams proved his worth at the other end on the stroke of half-time, making a brilliant goal-line block from Yangel Herrera’s header.
But Williams was not there to deny Granada an opener three minutes after the restart, as Fernandez headed in Darwin Machis’ cross.
Carlos Neva arrowed wide as Granada hunted a second, but the hosts did not have to wait much longer to double their lead – Sanchez rising high to head home Marchis’ corner.
However, it was not to be for Granada, with Berchiche driving his way into the area before dispatching coolly beyond Silva to settle the tie in Bilbao’s favour.
What does it mean? Seville to play host to Basque derby
Bilbao have not met their Basque rivals Sociedad – who saw off minnows Mirandes in their semi-final – in a Copa del Rey final since 1910, but now the old enemies from the north will butt heads in a huge clash in Andalusia.
Berchiche the hero for Bilbao
With Bilbao’s attackers struggling to make inroads, former Paris Saint-Germain full-back Berchiche took matters into his own hands with nine minutes remaining, and showed the composure of a forward with his neat finish across Silva.
Muniain and Williams kept under wraps
Bilbao’s main men combined for the winner in the first leg but both struggled to reach their best level on Thursday, with Muniain unable to influence the visitors’ all-round play, while Williams was restricted to snap-shots, and the duo will have to be much sharper in the final.
Granada travel to Valencia to face Levante next in LaLiga, with Bilbao facing Real Valladolid. Both matches take place on Sunday.