Following last week’s scare against Elche, Athletic were prepared for a tough match against Tenerife on Tuesday night. Needing a win to advance to the Copa del Rey quarterfinals, Gaizka Garitano took no chances and started a very strong lineup at Estadio Heliodoro Rodríguez López. The Lions were poised for a great performance but never could have predicted disaster at the start of the game.
Just two minutes after kickoff Iago Herrerín was shown a straight red card, leaving Athletic to play the remainder of the match with 10 men. The goalkeeper had rushed out of the box in hopes of stopping an attack that resulted from a bad pass from Yeray, but ended up taking out the forward. Jokin Ezkieta immediately replaced Unai Núñez to make his debut between the sticks.
The resulting free kick was blocked and went out for a corner kick, but the referee quickly stopped play and rushed to the VAR monitor for a review. Replay showed that the ball had struck the arm of Iñaki Williams and a penalty was awarded. Ezkieta was sent the wrong way as Tenerife scored to take a very early 1-0 lead.
Despite the series of unfortunate events, Athletic refused to back down and continued to fight. The effort would eventually be rewarded. In the 17th minute Raúl García sent a beautiful cross into the box which eventually skipped through to Yuri Berchiche. The left-back returned the ball to Raúl García whose header rebounded off the chest of Williams and into the back of the goal.
Athletic were full of confidence after leveling the score and looked dangerous taking the ball forward. However, Tenerife’s man advantage continued to provide the hosts with space to attack. Mere moments after Athletic’s goal, Tenerife would retake the lead when the Lions failed to clear a cross. Joselu capitalized on the loose ball and beat Ezkieta to make it 2-1.
The first half would end with Tenerife still ahead, but Athletic playing well enough to believe that the Basques would have chances to get back into the game after the break. Athletic pressed with intensity to start the second half and it wouldn’t take long before Tenerife were forced into a mistake. In the 54th minute the islanders made a bad pass at the back which was intercepted by Williams. The striker ran in on goal and beat the goalkeeper to equalize once again.
Athletic would have the better chances throughout the remainder of the game, though Ezkieta had to make a diving save to prevent Tenerife from scoring a backheel inside the box. In the end, neither side was able to find a winner and the match would go into extra time where the drama continued.
Not long into the first half of extra time the playing field would finally be leveled when Tenerife captain Carlos Ruiz was shown a second yellow card and sent off. Gaizka Garitano responded by bringing on Asier Villalibre for an exhausted Williams but disaster would strike yet again in the 104th minute. Iñigo Lekue made a bad challenge in the box and Tenerife were awarded another penalty which was converted to put the home side up 3-2.
Ander Capa was brought on to start the second half of extra time but Athletic struggled to break through the Tenerife defense. Little by little the Lions started to chip away at the back line and, incredibly, would strike just two minutes before the final whistle. Yuri Berchiche blasted a shot from outside the box which beat the goalkeeper and sent the game into a penalty shootout.
Raúl García and Iker Muniain both converted their penalties with Tenerife doing the same. Mikel Vesga scored the third for Athletic which was followed by a save from Ezkieta to give Athletic the advantage. Tenerife had an opportunity to get back into the shootout when Iñigo Martínez had his shot saved, but Shaq Moore put the following shot off the crossbar. Asier Villalibre stepped up with an opportunity to win the match and scored to send Athletic through to the quarterfinals.
Having survived the scare against Tenerife, Athletic will now wait for the remaining Copa del Rey fixtures to be played over the next two days. The draw for the quarterfinals will take place on Friday where the Basques will find out their next opponents with a chance of hosting the match at San Mamés.