United bamboozled in Bilbao
Athletic Bilbao produced a dazzling display to beat Man Utd 2-1 in the second leg of their Europa League tie and secure a 5-3 aggregate win.
Last Updated: 15/03/12 10:27pm
Athletic Bilbao produced another dazzling performance to beat Manchester United 2-1 in the second leg of their Europa League tie at San Mames and secure a 5-3 aggregate success.
Manchester United had travelled to the Basque Country hoping to overturn a 3-2 deficit from the first leg at Old Trafford, but were rarely able to get on the front foot against opponents who combined attacking flair with a furious intensity to retrieve possession when they did lose the ball.
Bilbao took the lead on the night with a stunning goal after 23 minutes, with Fernando Llorente demonstrating perfect technique to strike a first-time volley into the bottom corner from a long ball over the top of the United defence.
Further chances came and went for the home side before Oscar de Marcos made it 2-0 in the 65th minute with a shot from 12 yards that deflected past David de Gea.
Wayne Rooney pulled a goal back with a tremendous curling effort ten minutes from time to give United a lifeline and set up a more interesting finale, but Bilbao held firm to advance to the quarter-finals.
Having acknowledged how well the Basque outfit had played at Old Trafford seven days ago, Sir Alex Ferguson used the availability of Tom Cleverley to pack his midfield.
The idea was to stem Athletic's source of attacks and get support to lone striker Rooney as quickly as possible.
United did create a very early opening when Park Ji-sung sent Rooney running free.
But the striker opted to cross instead of shoot, no-one was up in support and from that moment, United's hopes took a nosedive.
Markel Susaeta's free-kick was deflected wide after Michael Carrick had fouled Ander Herrera, then Patrice Evra headed Javi Martinez's effort off the line.
The pressure was mounting and United survived a major scare when Llorente found Iker Muniain with a superb pass.
Muniain's shot struck the base of a post with De Gea beaten and De Marcos drove the rebound wildly over when he should have scored.
De Marcos had another shot saved before Athletic took the lead in magnificent style.
Fernando Amorebieta launched a long ball across the pitch from halfway. There appeared little danger, even as the ball dropped over Rio Ferdinand's shoulder - but Llorente met it with a first-time volley that gave De Gea no chance as it flew into the opposite corner.
It was the least Athletic deserved after proving their Old Trafford triumph was no fluke and meant United had to score at least three times to go through, something they did not appear capable of.
Ryan Giggs' corner was easily collected by Gorka Iraizoz on a rare United foray forward.
And then, after Rooney had led a rapid counter-attack, Young was tackled by Amorebieta inside the Athletic area.
Llorente, doubtful beforehand with a hamstring strain, was replaced by Gaizka Toquero five minutes before the interval.
But it hardly seemed to matter and the glee of the home fans at half-time summed up the state of the tie.
De Marcos blasted an early shot wide at the start of the second period and clearly the hosts had no intention of easing up.
And when De Marcos and Susaeta combined to set up Andoni Iraola, the visitors almost conceded another memorable goal.
Instead of shooting, the full-back weaved his way past three defenders inside the United box. It was brilliant stuff but the Athletic skipper spoiled his hard work by flicking the ball narrowly wide.
Moments later, Iraola crossed for Toquero but, unmarked, he lifted his shot over.
Rafael was booked for deliberately handling an attempted pass by Herrera, before Chris Smalling - in a Petr Cech style helmet to protect a head wound - and Paul Pogba, on his 19th birthday, were introduced after 63 minutes for Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick.
It was the clearest evidence that Ferguson had given the tie up.
When De Marcos netted Athletic's second from Iraola's cross two minutes later, it was effectively all over.
Pogba was booked for a late challenge on Herrera and, having elected to leave Rooney on, hearts were in mouths when he took his time getting up from a tangle with Jon Aurtenetxe.
Thankfully he got to his feet and 10 minutes from time curled home a brilliant effort of his own - but it was far too late for United.
|Athletic de Bilbao||Team Statistics||Manchester United|
|1||1st Half Goals||0|
|6||Shots on Target||2|
|12||Shots off Target||0|
|46.6||1st Half Poss.||53.4|
|54.3||2nd Half Poss.||45.7|