Bilbao progress after thrilling draw

Athletic Bilbao progressed to the group stages of the Europa League despite a high scoring draw with HJK Helsinki at the Finnair Stadium.

Helsinki were forced to attack from the off as Bilbao had put six past them in the opening game, but it was the visitors who had the best of the opening exchanges.

Ruiz De Galarreta and Ibai Gomez forced decent saves from HJK goalkeeper Ville Wallen in the opening quarter of an hour, with the hosts unable to keep possession and gather momentum going forward.

Finish midfielder Joel Perovuo created his side’s opening chance by winning a free-kick that was comfortably saved by Bilbao reserve goalkeeper Raul.

Athletic forced several corners from the HJK defence, but after 25 minutes Rasmus Schuller gave the host’s the lead with an assist from Erfan Zeneli.

Gomez and Bilbao Captain Markel Susaeta had efforts on goal in the remaining fifteen minutes, but the Basque outfit remained collected in the knowledge they still maintained a comfortable five goal lead.

A tame end to the first half saw Bilbao Coach Marcelo Bielsa use all three of his substitutes during the interval, with Susaeta, Oscar De Marcos and Ander Iturraspe making way.

Spanish striker Gaizka Toquero came close to equalising five minutes into the second half, but Helsinki pushed forward in numbers to win a flurry of corners and free-kicks.

After Igor Martinez missed the target, HJK’s resulting counter attack saw Perovuo double their lead on the hour mark with the assist coming from his goal scoring teammate Schuller. 

Bilbao responded a mere five minutes later with Gomez’s free-kick bundled in by defender San Jose, restoring the club’s five goal lead.

Antii Muurinen’s men were not going down easily, however, and Joel Pohjanpalo put Helsinki’s improbable comeback back on track with a successful strike. 

Toquero eventually scored ten minutes from time, with Gomez’s delivery once again unlocking the unorganised host’s defence.

Pelvas was sent-off for a second yellow card late on, effectively ending his club’s chances of going through to the group stages.

Martinez equalised for the Basque side with two minutes left to play, and secured overall victory in the play-off on the night.

Bilbao’s impressive lead from the first leg ultimately proved too much for Helsinki and despite a spirited fight back on the night they crashed out of the Europa League

HJK Helsinki 3-3 Athletic Bilbao (3-9 on aggregate)

Scorers: Schuller 25 (HJK), Perovuo 62 (HJK), San Jose 67 (AB), Pohjanpalo 70 (HJK), Toquero 77 (AB), Martinez 88 (AB)

HJK Helsinki: Wallen; Sorsa (Okkonen 55), Lahti, Moren (Savage 76), Kansikas; Mannstrom, Schuller (Hakanpaa 65), Perovuo, Zeneli; Pohjanpalo, Pelvas

Athletic Bilbao: Raul; Galarreta, Ekiza, Jose, Castillo; De Marcos (Ramalho 46), Iturraspe (Perez 46), Muniani; Susaeta (Martinez 46), Toquero, Gomez

Ref: Kelly (IRL)

Pelvas sent-off 82

Tags HJK Helsinki