Trying to reach their third consecutive Copa del Rey final, Athletic Bilbao drew 1-1 at home against Valencia in the first leg of the semi-finals. Raúl García opened the scoring for the hosts with a header from an Iker Muniain free-kick in the 37th minute, but Valencia equalized in the 65th minute with a goal from close range by Hugo Duro after a rebound from a shot by Bryan Gil.
The second leg will be on March 2 at the Mestalla Stadium in Valencia. Real Betis recovered to beat Rayo Vallecano 2-1 in the first leg of the other semi-final on Wednesday. Athletic lost to Basque Country rivals Real Sociedad in the 2020 final and to Barcelona in the decider last season. It is the second most successful club in the competition with 23 titles, behind Barcelona’s 31, but has not lifted the trophy since 1984.
Athletic is one of the hottest teams in Spain recently under manager Marcelino Garcia Toral, having eliminated Barcelona in the Cup round of 16 and Real Madrid in the quarter-finals. They are unbeaten in five matches in all competitions, with their last loss to Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia, after eliminating Spanish champions Atlético Madrid in the semi-finals.
Athletic was overtaken by Valencia at the start of Thursday’s game at the San Mamés stadium, but little by little they regained control and were the most dangerous team for the rest of the game, although they failed to capitalize on their scoring chances.
Athletic sit in eighth place in the Spanish league, three places ahead of Valencia, who are trying to return to the Cup final after winning their eighth title in the competition in 2019. Valencia had won their last three Cup games. but they have not won in their last five in the Spanish league.
The visitors vociferously complained about a missed penalty after a late breakaway.