Athletic have taken the Copa del Rey very seriously this season with the belief that the can compete for a 25th title. Following wins over Intercity and Sestao River, the Lions traveled to Elche on Wednesday looking for another victory and a place in the final sixteen.
The match started as well as the Basques could have hoped. A beautiful pass from Iñigo Martinez sent Iñaki Williams through on goal in the 5th minute and the striker calmly beat the goalkeeper to give Athletic an early 1-0 lead. Despite going behind so soon the hosts showed no fear.
Elche looked dangerous on every counter attack and defended well. Athletic were unable to double their lead and it would eventually cost them before the break. Elche managed to level the score in the 40th minute with a free header in the box and took all the momentum.
Aside from a chance moments after the second half started, Elche were pinned back into their own half as Athletic took control of the match. Gaizka Garitano brought on Iker Muniain to start the half and the change gave the team a significant boost. However, the Zurigorri still had trouble creating any real opportunities in front of goal and the game would eventually go to extra time.
Athletic had chances to win the game in extra time. Asier Villalibre had a close shot saved and Unai Núñez put a header wide, but the goal was still missing. In the end, the tie would be decided by penalties which also brought drama.
Raúl García took the first shot which was saved. Iker Muniain then converted his chance but Unai López would see his shot saved as well. With Elche up 3-1 it looked certain that Athletic would be eliminated. Williams scored from the spot, followed by a miss from Elche, before Villalibre drew level at 3-3.
A goal from Elche on the tenth shot would have won the game but Iago Herrerín made the save. However, replay showed that the goalkeeper left his line too soon. The referee missed the indiscretion and penalties continued. Following goals from Berchiche and Mikel Vesga, Elche put a shot wide left which gave Athletic the victory. The Zurigorri will now await Friday’s draw to learn who their next opponent will be.