Athletic defeats Betis in shootout to reach Copa semifinals

Madrid, Feb 5 (AP) Ra l Garc a scored a last-gasp equalizer to force extra time and goalkeeper Unai Sim n made two penalty saves as Athletic Bilbao defeated Real Betis 4-1 in a shootout to reach the Copa del Rey semifinals.

Garc a also scored one of the penalties after a 1-1 draw to help keep Athletic in contention for consecutive Copa titles. Later this year it will face Basque Country rival Real Sociedad in the postponed final from last season.

I’m proud of this team, Garc a said. We were in a complicated situation, losing until the last minute, but we always believed that we could come back.

I aki Williams, Jon Morcillo and Yuri Berchiche also scored for the 23-time Copa champion in the shootout. Sim n stopped penalties taken by Sergio Canales and Juanmi Jim nez.

Two-time Copa winner Betis looked set to make it to the semis for the second time in three seasons after Juanmi scored with a volley from inside the area in the 84th minute. But the visitors equalized in the fourth minute of stoppage time with a header by Garc a from near the penalty spot after a well-placed cross by I igo Mart nez.

When it gets to a penalty shootout it’s a lottery, Betis midfielder Joaqu n S nchez said.

We could see the semifinals. We played a complete match.

Manuel Pellegrini’s Betis was unbeaten in eight consecutive matches in all competitions.

Athletic, which has lost only twice since coach Marcelino Garc a Toral took over the squad in the beginning of the year, beat Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup final earlier this year.

It was a tough night but in the end things went our way in the shootout, Toral said.

I think it was a fair result after how we played the game.

The other Copa semifinalists are Barcelona, Levante and Sevilla. The draw for the last four will be on Friday.

The semifinals will be played over two legs.