Barcelona: Struggling in the Spanish league and the Europa League, Athletic Bilbao were fortunate to escape with a 0-0 draw from their visit to third-division Eibar in the fourth round of the Copa del Rey on Thursday. Fernando Llorente made his first start of the season for Bilbao since refusing to extend his contract with his boyhood club beyond next summer.
But even with the Spain striker on the pitch with a first-choice side, Bilbao were outplayed by the fellow Basque club. The 23-time cup winner Bilbao showed none of the verve that led it to last year's final. Eibar, meanwhile, created three clear scoring chances in the first half that their forwards failed to finish.
"We played poorly in the first half and should have been losing by halftime," said Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa, whose team has only won two of its first nine games in the Spanish league and is winless in three games in its Europa League group. It may sound strange to hear — I'm not especially disappointed with drawing with Eibar. But it would be arrogant to say that we showed we were better than our rival."
Bilbao were not the only favorite to flop in the opening leg of the knockout series on Thursday. Fellow first-division sides Levante, Real Sociedad and Osasuna all lost to lower-division opponents. Levante will have to look to bounce back in the second leg from a 1-0 loss at third-tier Melilla.
Melilla midfielder Fernando Velasco scored from the penalty spot in the 39th after being fouled by Nikolaos Karampelas. Melilla, the team of one of Spain's two enclave cities on the north African coast, held on for the victory despite Carlos David receiving his second booking in the 71st.
"There are no excuses for the result," said Levante coach Juan Ignacio Martinez. "Our rival went for the win and the risk paid off. We need to remember that we can't lose our sense of humility."
Cordoba, playing in the second division, beat visiting Sociedad 2-0 at Arcangel stadium with goals by Javier Patino and Vincenzo Rennella. Sporting Gijon— relegated from the first division last season— edged Osasuna 1-0 at home thanks to Gaston Sangoy's goal in the fifth minute.
Getafe were the only first-division team to get a win over a lower-division opponent. The Madrid-based team routed second-division Ponferradina 4-0, with two goals from Jaime Gavilan and one apiece for Pablo Sarrabia and Paco Alcacer. Sevilla, a cup winner in 2010, beat an Espanyol side full of reserves 3-1 to take commanding lead in their tie.
Espanyol looked set to snatch a valuable away draw when Cristian Alfonso canceled out Federico Fazio's early opener with a long-range shot in the 69th. But Sevilla defender Juan "Cala" Torres volleyed in a corner seven minutes from time, before Alvaro Negredo converted a spot kick in added time after Ernest Galan pulled the striker down in the box. Sevilla coach Michel Gonzalez said his team's winning margin was larger than its performance had merited.
"We didn't have the ball, and not because they took it away from us, but because we kept losing it," Michel said. "We have a lot to improve."
Elsewhere, Alberto Bueno scored five minutes from halftime to give 10-man Valladolid a 1-0 home win over Real Betis. Valladolid's Henrique Moreno was red carded for striking an opposing player, but Betis failed to take advantage of its extra man for the final 25 minutes.
Mallorca took away a 1-1 draw from Deportivo La Coruna after Pedro Geromel leveled in the 71st following Deportivo defender Manuel Pablo's beautiful long-range strike in the 54th. The return legs of the round-of-32— the first with Spain's 20 first-division teams joining the lower-division survivors from the opening three rounds— will be played during the last week of November.