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regular-article-logo Sunday, 21 April 2024

Copa del Rey: Athletic brothers Inaki and Nico Williams take team closer to title dream

The home side dominated from the start against a subdued Atletico, with the jet-heeled Williams brothers a constant menace

Reuters, AP/PTI Bilbao Published 02.03.24, 08:56 AM
Inaki Williams (left) with brother Nico

Inaki Williams (left) with brother Nico File image

Brothers Inaki and Nico Williams scored to help Athletic Bilbao secure a 3-0 semi-final win over Atletico Madrid on Thursday and a 4-0 aggregate victory that sent the Basque side into their third Copa del Rey final in the last five years.

Bilbao, who reached their 40th Spanish Cup final, will bid to end a 40-year title drought in Seville on April 6, when they face Mallorca who beat Real Sociedad 5-4 on penalties on Tuesday.

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Ernesto Valverde’s Bilbao team punished the visitors with clinical counter-attacks, playing with the advantage of having won the first leg 1-0 in Madrid.

In need of a goal to stay alive and missing France forward Antoine Griezmann due to an ankle injury, it was mission impossible for Atletico against opponents who had not dropped a point at home since October.

Not even the pouring rain could spoil Athletic’s showdown in Bilbao, where they were roared on by a raucous San Mames Stadium packed with 52,000 adoring fans, the highest attendance in the club’s history.

The home side dominated from the start against a subdued Atletico, with the jet-heeled Williams brothers a constant menace.

They struck in the 13th minute when Nico burst up the left wing before crossing for his brother Inaki who unleashed a superb volley into the top corner.

Bilbao attacked again in the 42nd minute and Inaki set up Nico for a simple close-range finish.

Bilbao continued to dominate and Gorka Guruzeta wrapped up a 10th consecutive home win in all competitions for the Basque side from a rebound in the 61st minute.

“Our connection is real and it’s working very well, we understand each other,” Nico told TVE.

“I’m delighted, it’s a dream to reach the final and to do it in front of our fans that were fantastic as always. Athletic can do it all and hopefully win the final.

“This victory goes to my parents who are in Ghana. Ghana will be a party.”

Nico and Inaki are sons of Ghanaian parents who migrated to Spain before they were born.

They are among the few Black athletes to ever play at the club that historically fields only players from Spain’s northern Basque Country region or adjoining areas.

“Nico and I have fought hard to be able to enjoy things like this,” Inaki said. “It’s a night to enjoy and to be proud.”

It was another disappointing result for Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid who have won only one of their last seven competitive games.

They are fourth in La Liga on 52 points, 13 behind leaders Real Madrid, and will be under pressure when they host Serie A leaders Inter Milan after losing the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

“The Champions League, it’s a difficult, complicated competition that requires strength, but who knows...?,” Simeone told TVE.

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