Llorente's late strike for Bilbao books Europa League final showdown with Atletico
22:03 GMT, 26 April 2012
Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente
struck a late goal to secure a 3-1 win over Sporting on Thursday that
put his side into next month's Europa League final after a thriller at
Bilbao won 4-3 on aggregate with
towering striker Llorente the hero, creating their first two goals and
volleying home the crucial strike in the 88th minute that moved the
Basque club within touching distance of a first continental trophy.
Done it: Athletic Bilbao's Fernando Llorente celebrates his winner
Sporting had fought back to win last week's first leg 2-1 in Lisbon but Bilbao soon grabbed the early goal they needed.
Markel Susaeta put the home side ahead on the night in the 17th minute, Ricky van Wolfswinkel levelled for Sporting in the 44th before Ibai Gomez put Bilbao back in front.
With extra time looming, Llorente, nicknamed the Lion King, nipped in front of his marker and diverted a Gomez centre in off the post to send the home fans into raptures.
Late drama: Llorente scores the third goal
Bilbao will now face La Liga rivals and
2010 winners Atletico Madrid in Bucharest on May 9 after Diego Simeone's
side completed a 5-2 aggregate win over Valencia.
Athletic were the only side in the last four never to have won a
European trophy, their only previous final coming in 1977 when they lost
the UEFA Cup final to Juventus.
Their opening goal came when Llorente cleverly chested a cross into the
path of Susaeta who volleyed past Rui Patricio from close range.
First up: Sporting goalkeeper Rui Patricio is beaten by Markel Susaeta
Both sides drove forward at every opportunity and both had chances
before Sporting pulled level on the night when the ball fell to Dutch
striker van Wolfswinkel on the edge of the penalty area and he fired low
into the corner.
Sporting's aggregate lead lasted two minutes before Llorente got his
second assist when he set Gomez clear to finish with a shot into the far
corner in first half added time.
Local hero: Atletico Madrid's midfielder Adrian Lopez
The second period followed a similar pattern to the first, Bilbao's Javi
Martinez heading against a post from a corner and Emiliano Insua also
striking the frame of the goal with a powerful deflected low drive for
But with extra time looming, Llorente pounced to score the crucial goal that delighted the ecstatic home fans.
Boiling over: Rivals players clash during the semi-final