There was little to separate the teams on paper. Atletico are still joint-top of La Liga, but it is Athletic who have been in the better form. Atletico held a 1-0 win from last week’s first leg but as Athletic had never been beaten at their new Sam Mames arena, it was the Bilbao team who were favourites in many people’s eyes.
Athletic started the match full of confidence. Atletico’s on loan keeper Thibault Courtois keeping them in the game against a tide of aggression. Diego Simeone will be desperate to, at last, make his golakeeper’s transfer from Chelsea permanent.
In-form striker Aritz Aduriz gave Athletic a deserved lead in the 42nd minute with a header. From that moment on, it seemed likely that Athletic would take the tie. Atletico are made of sterner stuff this season.
The cup holders improved markedly after the break. Raul Garcia needed two attempts to score in the 54th minute but his goal levelled the match on the night and gave Atletico a lead that they barely deserved. A relieved Diego Costa sealed the victory in the 86th minute to set up a semi-final clash with city rivals Real. Costa has looked out of sorts this year. He still covers the pitch, but his predatory finish has been strangely lacking. It was his first goal since early December. Both Costa and his manager Simeone will be hoping the he rediscovers his touch, and gives Atleti a chance of the domestic double.