Athletic imposed its status as a cup specialist in the Ciutat de València. Intense and aggressive in the pressure, the lions gobbled up Levante in extra time. The granota went ahead in the 16th minute, but were unable to combat the effective push of Marcelino’s troop. Accusing the load of matches, casualties, and the physical condition of key players such as Bardhi and Morales, Levante also played with a straitjacket. The one Marcelino fastened for him. The one that stopped him from running and attacking space. The rojiblancos chewed the game until Levante fell exhausted in the 112th minute after Berenguer’s goal, after supporting the greater Basque intensity. Athletic, which has yet to play last year’s final, will also play this season’s final on April 17 in Seville. He awaits his victim in the Super Cup, Barça. Before the rival will be Real Sociedad, on the 3rd. Two finals in 14 days.
Athletic mobilized all its resources to be able to count on Iñigo Martínez, sanctioned with four games after his expulsion at the end of the league match last Friday between the same contenders. In the absence of 45 minutes before the start of the game, the TAD (Administrative Court of Sports) did not grant him the precautionary statement and Unai Núñez took his place. In Levante, Róber Pier’s lineup was deceptive. Far from being a piece to defend, the Galician center-back, with traces of a midfielder, facilitated a clean exit of the ball and reinforced the central zone when the team deployed. Marcelino soon realized and raised his pressure line. Paco López replaced him at half-time because Malsa and Rochina did not mix well with him. The medullary granota was never at ease.
The initiative was rojiblanca as in the duel on Friday. A combination between Berenguer and De Marcos, who won the baseline, ended in a back pass to Raúl García, who shot to the left of Aitor. De Frutos responded with a failed shot in the first outing on the counter. In the second gallop, Morales received on the right, raised his head and threw a pipe at De Marcos over the entrance to the goal area of Rochina. The pass from Sagunto’s back was picked up by Roger who drew his pistols; 12 goals has already been this season. Morales’ action, brilliant, was the only one of the Commander, who was very tired.
More intense, Athletic, who was hitting on his right side with De Marcos and Berenguer overwhelming Clerc, found the tie on the left. Muniain slipped behind Miramón and crossed low on Raúl García, who won the space from Duarte and was knocked down by the Tico central in the area. The Navarrese gritted his teeth in fury when he scored the penalty.
With very high defense, Levante was the victim of aggressive pressure from the lions. Munian hid the ball protected in his low center of gravity, Williams dominated the space with his strides and Raúl García battled with everyone. The Levante, bottled and imprecise in the pass, could not break running. In one of his few outings after the goal, Miramón crossed and Yerai Álvarez deflected him towards the post of his goal.
The entry of Bardhi and the readjustment of Paco López in the center of the field improved Levante. With the roles of Malsa, Rochina and the Macedonian clearer, Levante found themselves. The fight seemed to equalize, but Athletic soon shook off the timid granota reaction. And as the minutes passed, he intensified his siege. Raúl García, superior in the body with the granota centrals, received his back in the area and, splendidly, assisted Williams with his heel, who missed the shot. Laughing at 34 years old, dominant in the game, always passionate, Raúl García was one of the best. Levante missed Postigo behind. Upstairs, De Frutos was the only one who ventured to haggle; the one who forced a heeled free kick on the edge that Bardhi was about to hole out.
In extra time the resistance of Levante was undone. The action was a cruel carambola for Levante, who dreamed of penalties when Berenguer took advantage of the fact that the Granota defense recoiled excessively to shoot. The ball touched Vukcevic, he misled Aitor and entered the goal, eliminating Levante and giving Athletic, a specialist, the option of winning two finals in 14 days.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.