GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - MARCH 29: Fernando Llorente of Bilbao celebrates with teammates after scoring his team's opening goal during the UEFA Europa Leauge quarter final first leg match between FC Schalke 04 and Athletic Bilbao at Veltins-Arena on March 29, 2012 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)

UEFA Europa League 2012: Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao Advance To Final

Athletic Bilbao earned a last-minute winner at the San Memes to take them to Bucharest, while Atletico Madrid's tie against Valencia was settled far earlier.

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Athletic Bilbao Vs. Sporting Lisbon, 2012 Europa League: Final Score 3-1 Athletic, Last Minute Llorente Goal Sees Hosts Through

Athletic Bilbao advance to the Europa League after a 3-1 thriller at the San Memes. With Sporting Lisbon having come from behind to win the first leg 2-1, the hosts needed at least a goal to get to Bucharest. The got it in the 17th minute, with Susaeta hitting a volley into the ground and past Rui Patricio following a clever knock-down from Fernando Llorente.

Sporting always looked dangerous though, and Ricky van Wolfswinkel seemed to have ensured that the tie would enter halftime with the balance tipped in his team's direction when he slammed a 44th minute leveller in from 15 yards to clinch a vital away goal and put the visitors 3-2 up on aggregate. That lead lasted all of a minute - Llorente played in Ibai Gomez and the forward finished deftly to make things all square.

That was the state of play for most of the second half. Athletic were the better side and nearly took the lead when Llorente rattled the post with a good header from a corner kick, but Sporting were always threatening to break whenever their hosts attacked, and another goal for the Portuguese would have left Athletic needing to score two. It made for a tense, slightly cagey affair - the second half didn't reach the heights of the first by any means, but it also meant that any goal was going to be an absolutely monumental one.

So it proved in the 89th minute. The home side kept hold of possession, gently probing Sporting for several minutes until an opening appeared. One eventually did, and in a flash Gomez was in down the left, crossing for Llorente to head off the post and in for the 3-1 lead, taking the score to 4-3 on aggregate. Sporting threw bodies forward in injury time, knowing that a goal meant that they would go through on the away goals rule, but Athletic held out, and they'll now head to the final to meet Atletico Madrid on May 9th.


Valencia Vs. Atletico Madrid, 2012 Europa League: Final Score 1-0 Atletico, Visitors Advance To Final

Atletico Madird are through to the Europa League final after a 1-0 win in the Mestalla against Valencia. Having set the stage with a 4-2 win at home a week ago, the visitors knew that keeping the game tight would see them progress, and they managed to keep Valencia at bay fairly comfortably for the first half, despite being by some distance the lesser side. Thibaut Courtois' goal probably should have been under siege, but although the young goalkeeper did make some big saves the expected onslaught never quite materialised.

The second half was more of the same, until a five minute spell essentially crippled Valencia's hopes. First Sergio Canales went down in the box without contact, looking to have done himself a major injury in the process (he was stretchered off with his face covered) and then Adrian smacked in an absolutely magnificent right-footed shot from the edge of Diego Alves' box after chesting down a long diagonal from Diego. That made it 5-2 on aggregate, and meant that Valencia needed three goals to advance.

It looked like they were going to get one when Tiago was penalised for handball in the area - despite it being a Valencia player who touched the ball. After a few minutes of madness, however, it was the visitors who emerged with a free kick. The original decision was overruled, but Tiago was sent off anyway for a silly slap on Roberto Soldado when he still through the penalty was being given.

It was an ugly moment, but I'm not sure Atletico will care too much - they were able to hold out with ten men to advance to the Europa League final with a 5-2 aggregate win. They will meet Athletic Bilbao in Bucharest.

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