Fernando Llorente’s goal in the 88th minute sent Athletic Bilbao into the Europa League soccer final against Spanish rival Atletico Madrid.
Llorente’s late score gave Athletic Bilbao a 3-1 win over Sporting Lisbon last night and a 4-3 victory in their two-game semifinal. Atletico Madrid finished off a 5-2 victory over Valencia with a 1-0 win on a goal from Adrian Lopez.
“We have been struggling in this competition since July but the prize is here, a great final,” Atletico midfielder Gabi said on UEFA website. “Athletic is one of the biggest teams in Europe and it will be a very nice final.”
The title match of Europe’s second-tier club competition will be played May 9 in Bucharest. It’s the second straight final between teams from the same country after Porto beat Braga in an all-Portuguese matchup last year.
Trailing 2-1 after last week’s opening game in Portugal, Athletic opened the scoring with a 17th-minute goal from Markel Susaeta. Sporting’s Ricky van Wolfswinkel tied the game in the 44th minute and Ibai Gomez gave Athletic the lead with a goal in injury time.
The teams appeared to be headed to extra time tied 3-3 on aggregate when Llorente put a shot between goalkeeper Rui Patricio and the left post.
Of the four semifinalists, only Athletic has never won a European competition. It lost the 1977 final of the UEFA Cup, the predecessor of the Europa League, to Juventus.
Lopez’s 60th-minute score in Valencia completed 2010 champion Atletico’s rout in the all-Spanish semifinal.
Atletico, which has won 11 straight Europa League games, will be without Tiago in the final. The team captain received a red card in the 79th minute after appearing to slap Roberto Soldado during a mass confrontation between the teams.