Muniain guides Bilbao past Celta in Copa del Rey
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Athletic Bilbao forward Iker Muniain celebrated his 21st birthday in style on Thursday, scoring two goals and setting up another to send the Basque side into the Copa del Rey’s final 16 in a 4-0 victory over 10-man Celta Vigo.
Bilbao overturned a 1-0 loss in the first leg at Celta and advances to face Real Betis.
Muniain opened the scoring with a long-range strike in the 21st minute at San Mames, after Bilbao’s pressure led to Ibai Gomez stealing the ball from Michael Krohn-Dehli in Celta’s territory.
Markel Susaeta slipped behind his marker to tap home Ibai Gomez’s cross to put Bilbao ahead on aggregate one minute before halftime.
Already struggling to many any impact in the final third, Celta’s chances were further undermined in the 53rd when defender Hugo Mallo was dismissed with his second yellow card.
Muniain scored his second goal in the 80th before he sent Aritz Aduriz clear to cap the win five minutes from time.
Despite the assist, Aduriz said Muniain could foot the bill for the party.
“He gets to pay,” said Aduriz. “Wow. Two goals on his birthday? It’s his turn to pay.”
Also, Valencia moved on after a nervy 1-0 win over third-division Nastic Tarragona. Rayo Vallecano advanced after rallying to beat 10-man Valladolid 3-1, and Espanyol defeated second-tier Real Jaen 2-0 for a 4-2 win on aggregate.
With interim coach Nico Esteve making his debut in place of the fired Miroslav Djukic and the tie poised at 0-0 after the first leg, Pablo Alcacer’s headed Valencia’s winner in the 37th.
But Valencia never took control at its Mestalla Stadium. Helder Postiga had a penalty saved in the 88th minute, and it needed a stoppage-time save from goalkeeper Vicente Guaita to survive.
The brush with an early exit earned the team a mixture of cheers and jeers after the final whistle.
Djukic was fired on Monday, a day after Valencia was humbled 3-0 at Atletico Madrid, leaving it mid-table in the Spanish league and far from a desired top-four finish. Djukic was the financially stricken club’s third coach in a year and a half.
“We needed this win. It helps our morale after all that has happened this week,” Alcacer said. “The game was complicated. You could see that Nastic is a good team, but we did what we had to do to move on.”
Valencia will face defending champion Atletico in the next round, to be played in January.
Rayo midfielder Adrian Gonzalez netted a brace to help beat Valladolid and set up a meeting with Levante.
Espanyol will play Alcorcon after easing past Jaen with goals by Simao Sabrosa and Sidnei.
The other last-16 fixtures are: Barcelona vs. Getafe, Real Madrid vs. Osasuna, Real Sociedad vs. Villarreal and Almeria vs. Racing Santander.