Barcelona to face Athletic Bilbao in Spanish cup finalMarch 5th, 2009 - 5:12 pm ICT by IANS
Madrid, March 5 (DPA) Barcelona edged past Mallorca in a dull Spanish King’s Cup semi-final second leg and will meet euphoric Athletic Bilbao in the final.
Out-of-form Barca drew 1-1 at Mallorca Wednesday and go into the final on a 3-1 aggregate, having beaten the islanders 2-0 in the first leg four weeks ago in the Camp Nou.
Earlier Wednesday, Bilbao powered their way into their first final since 1985 by thrashing dull Sevilla 3-0, to go through on a 4-2 aggregate.
Barca and Bilbao top the all-time King’s Cup rankings, having won the trophy 24 and 23 times respectively.
However, Barca have not made it to the final since 1998, when they beat Mallorca on penalties, and Bilbao have not been in the final since 1985, when they lost 2-1 to Atletico Madrid.
This year’s final will be staged on May 13 in Valencia.
Barca coach Josep Guardiola fielded a reserve-packed side against Mallorca and was rewarded with another dull display.
Uruguayan striker Gonzalo Castro gave the hosts the lead just before half-time. Things went from bad to worse for Barca eight minutes into the second half, when defender Martin Caceres pulled down Castro for a clear penalty - and was sent off.
Goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto saved the penalty of veteran Jose Luis Marti, and Barca were off the hook.
Eight minutes from time, supersub Lionel Messi made it 1-1 with a delightful chip after latching onto a long ball from Gerard Pique.
Earlier Wednesday, Bilbao cruised into the final with a 3-0 destruction of hapless Sevilla, with first-half goals from Javi Martinez, Fernando Llorente and Gaizka Toquero.
Bilbao are the only team in the major European leagues not to sign foreign players, preferring a squad of local Basques.
Roared on by a capacity crowd in old San Mames - due to be demolished within two years - Bilbao were true to their Lions nickname and tore into Sevilla from the start.
Young Martinez made it 1-0 for the hosts after just four minutes, turning in the rebound after Sevilla keeper Andres Palop had failed to hold his first shot.
In the 35th minute, Spain striker Llorente made it 2-0 by heading in a perfect centre from Fran Yeste.
Just three minutes later, Toquero converted San Mames’ joy into euphoria by making it 3-0 with a calm finish.
The hosts intelligently played on the break in the second half, soaking up Sevilla’s strong but imprecise pressure. The final whistle produced a euphoric pitch invasion.
Bilbao coach Joaquin Caparros denied that the cup run was his achievement, saying: “This is all down to the players.”
He dedicated the win “to the city and to the fans, who were just tremendous tonight.”