Bilbao (Spain), Jan 21 (IANS) FC Barcelona took another important step in their King’s Cup title defence, winning the first leg of their quarter-final 2-1 against Athletic Club Bilbao in an away match. The Basque side pressured Barcelona from the start and for the first 15 minutes, the Cup holders were on the back foot until they scored with virtually their first attack of the game on Wednesday. Ivan Rakitic found space down the right to swing over a low cross that allowed Munir to score from eight yards out. 

With star strikers, Lionel Messi injured and Luis Suarez suspended, Munir justified his place in the side and midway through the half Neymar also got on the scoresheet as Athletic keeper Iago Herrerin made a mess of a clearance and allowed him to slip the ball into an empty net. 

The two goals left Athletic groggy and for the rest of the half they were chasing shadows as Barcelona, led by Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, controlled the ball. The second half was more even, although Barcelona always looked in control until the closing minutes when the pride of the Athletic players saw them pin them back in their own half. Substitute Sabin Merino forced a fine save from Ter Stegen following a corner, before Aritz Aduriz gave Athletic hope in the last minute after Barcelona failed to clear another corner. Sabin was inches away from an equaliser in injury time, but with Suarez and Messi to return and the return leg in front of their fans, Barcelona are clear favourites to reach the last four. In the other quarter-final first leg match played on Wednesday, Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid drew 0-0 in Vigo.

    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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