MADRID (AP)Atletico Madrid returned to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey for the first time since 2018 by defeating second-division club Levante 2-0 on Wednesday.
Marcos Llorente scored a goal and set up another by Alvaro Morata to send Atletico through to the last eight and help it rebound from two consecutive games without a win in the Spanish league. Both goals came after the interval after a poor first half by Diego Simeone’s team.
”We struggled early, didn’t even get a shot on goal. It wasn’t our best effort,” Simeone said. ”We talked at halftime about playing with the ball. We know these players can play well.”
Atletico had last made it to the Copa quarterfinals in the 2017-18 season, when it lost to Sevilla. It was eliminated by Real Sociedad in the round of 16 last season, and by third-division club Cornella in the second round two years ago.
Atletico’s letdown in the league left Simeone’s team just holding on to fourth place in the final Champions League spot. It has lost to Barcelona at home and drawn at Almeria in the last two rounds.
The Copa looks like the only trophy Atletico can realistically still fight for this season as it trails league leader Barcelona by 13 points near the halfway point.
Levante had eliminated first-division Getafe in the previous round and was unbeaten in its last 17 matches in all competitions.
The other teams already in the last eight are Real Sociedad, Sevilla, Valencia, Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna.
On Thursday, newly crowned Spanish Super Cup champion Barcelona visits third-division club Ceuta, while Real Madrid is at Villarreal.
DEFENDING CHAMPION OUT
Defending champion Real Betis failed to advance after a 4-2 loss in a penalty shootout against visiting Osasuna.
Sergio Canales and Guido Rodriguez missed their penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation and 2-2 draw in extra time at the Benito Villamarin Stadium in Seville.
Osasuna, sitting in seventh place in the Spanish league behind Betis, twice came from behind to send the game into the shootout.
Osasuna converted all of its penalties to reach the last eight of the Copa for the first time since 2009-10. It last made the semifinals in 2002-03.
CAVANI LEADS VALENCIA
Veteran Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani scored two first-half goals to help Valencia win 4-0 at second-division club Sporting Gijon.
Justin Kluivert and Samuel Lino also scored for the team coached by Gennaro Gattuso, which had won only two of its last 10 matches in all competitions.
Valencia was runner-up to Real Betis in last year’s cup final.
Athletic Bilbao got past Espanyol 1-0 with Oscar de Marcos scoring in the 27th and advanced past the round of 16 for the fourth straight season.
Bilbao was a semifinalist last season, and finished second in 2020 and 2021.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni
AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports