Just a day after Inaki Williams and Ghana failed to reach the knockout stage at the Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast, Inaki turned the saviour for Athletic Club after notching to help them defeat Barcelona 4-2 and reach the semis of the Copa del Ray on Wednesday night.
With an exemplary philosophy and immeasurable football, Ernesto Valverde’s Lions have reached a fifth semi-final in a row. And they did it with an unforgettable comeback. Passion and hunger saw them come from 1-2 down to win 4-2, sending San Mames wild in the process.
Athletic struck first, Gorka Guruzeta taking advantage of a goalmouth scramble to net within the first 37 seconds. The striker even had the chance to make it 2-0, shooting over the bar. Robert Lewandoski scored a fortunate goal to level the scores, the Polish forward getting the luck off the bounce from a mistimed clearance.
Lamine Yamal, who went from hero to villain, made it 1-2 six minutes later with a trademark shot.Athletic struggled but got back on their feet. Oihan Sancet could have equalised but was denied by Inaki Pena’s leg in the 42nd minute.
Williams then came off the bench to rapturous applause. His contribution was decisive. But not before Lamine Yamal made red-and-white hearts flutter with a couple of close chances. Nico nearly made it 3-2 with a right-footed shot before extra time, a miracle that it didn’t go into the net.
Athletic improved in extra time. They waited for their opening and found it in the 105th minute, Jauregizar robbed possession high up the pitch before connecting with Asier Villalibre, who found Inaki.
The striker had Athletic heads in their hands as his first shot hit the post, but he followed it up to put Los Leones 3-2 ahead.
Pena made a point-blank save from Iñaki and the magic moment came in the 120th minute. Instead of retreating into their own box, Athletic pushed forward and Nico scored a sensational goal with the outside of his boot to secure a 4-2 win over the reigning La Liga champions.