Athletic’s dream Copa del Rey run hasn’t come without its fair share of drama. Twice the Lions had to survive penalty shootouts before toppling Barcelona with a late goal at San Mamés. Reaching the semifinal has been far from easy and the Basques were expecting yet another challenge on Thursday night as they traveled to Granada for the second leg at Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes.
Having won the first leg 1-0 at San Mamés the Lions took a narrow lead into the match but knew that it wouldn’t be safe. Granada started the game with intensity and support from the home fans as they tried to find an early goal to level the score. Athletic struggled to put passes together, though the defense did well enough to deal with attacks and keep Unai Simón from coming under too much pressure.
In time, Athletic began to get more into the game and created a flurry of chances starting with a low cross into the box from Yuri Berchiche. Mikel San José put the shot just wide of the post which was followed just minutes later by an effort from Raúl García which was over the crossbar.
Going into halftime Granada had been the better side and had the momentum with 45 minutes left to play. It wouldn’t take long after the break for the hosts to finally strike. A cross into the box was headed past Simón in the 47th minute and there was nothing the goalkeeper could do about it.
Now 1-1 on aggregate, the tie was wide open. Granada had the momentum, but Athletic needed just one away goal to take back control. With 15 minutes left to play Granada would extend their lead, scoring a header from a corner kick, and sent the stadium into an uproar. The home side had one foot into the final, but Athletic had other plans.
A nice combination on the left wing saw a pass played through to Berchiche in the box. The left-back managed to put a shot into the back of the net to put Athletic back ahead on aggregate with the vital away goal. Momentum had shifted once again and despite Granada’s efforts and five minutes of added time, the Basque giants had pulled off the comeback and rejoiced at the sound of the final whistle.
It was far from Athletic’s best performance of the season, but the Lions did enough to narrowly escape Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes with the result needed to book their place in the Copa del Rey final. Athletic will meet Real Sociedad in the final at La Cartuja on 18 April with the dream of lifting a 25th title.