Bilbao wins 4-2 at Schalke in Europa League
MADRID (AP) -- Fernando Llorente's brace helped Athletic Bilbao to a 4-2 comeback win at Schalke in the Europa League, while Atletico Madrid beat Hannover 2-1 in the other first-leg quarterfinal between Spanish and German teams on Thursday.
After Llorente put Bilbao ahead in the 20th minute, Schalke's Raul Gonzalez rallied the hosts back in front with two goals on each side of halftime.
But Llorente headed in the leveler in the 73rd to turn the high-tempo contest in Bilbao's favor for good, as Oscar de Marcos and Iker Muniain scored late on at Veltins Arena.
"It was a great game,'' Llorente said. "It wasn't at all easy because they responded very well to our first goal. What Raul did was incredible. You can't ask anything more of a match.''
Also, Dutch league leader AZ Alkmaar beat Valencia 2-1, while Sporting Lisbon downed Ukrainian side Metalist Kharkiv 2-1.
The second legs will be next Thursday.
Both sides started well but Bilbao struck first through Llorente when he poked in his own rebound that goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand failed to hold on to.
Bilbao's lead lasted just two minutes before Raul redirected Atsuto Uchida's cross inside the near post. The former Real Madrid star then made it 2-1 in the 60th with a dipping volley from outside the area.
With Schalke pressing for another goal, Llorente muscled by a pair of defenders to flick in a corner for his 25th goal in all competitions.
Back in the game, Bilbao showed the same attacking flair that led it to ousting Manchester United in the previous round as De Marcos netted the winner in the 81st off a rebound and Muniain sealed the win in stoppage time on a counterattack.
"We knew they were good on the break, but we let our guard down,'' Schalke defender Christian Fuchs said. "Everyone will now be against us, but we can still pull off a miracle. We need three goals but anything is possible.''
At Vicente Calderon Stadium, Radamel Falcao capitalized on Atletico's early dominance by heading home a free kick nine minutes in for his seventh goal of the competition this season. The Colombia striker is the Europa League's all-time leading scorer with 22 in 23 appearances.
Hannover pulled even through Mame Diouf's 38th-minute goal and looked set to head back to Germany with a positive result until Eduardo Salvio blasted in a strike from long range to grab Atletico the victory in the 89th.
"Thank God for the goal, it gives us some breathing room heading to Germany,'' Salvio said.
In the Netherlands, Australia midfielder Brett Holman scored one and created another as AZ Alkmaar bettered Valencia, the third representative of the Spanish league to make the final eight.
Holman put AZ in front with a powerful volley in the 45th but Mehmet Topal leveled for Valencia six minutes later off a header.
Maarten Martens converted Holman's cross from six yards in the 78th to earn the win for AZ.
Striker Roberto Soldado had two chances for Valencia just before Mertens' goal but was twice denied by AZ goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado Brown.
Sporting dealt Metalist Kharkiv its first away defeat in the competition with second-half goals from Marat Izmailov and Emiliano Insua.
Izmailov scored off a cross from Diego Capel in the 51st minute, and Insua extended the Portuguese club's lead 13 minutes later with a low drive from a free kick.
Cleiton Xavier got a valuable away goal for Metalist Kharkiv with a 90th-minute penalty.
Sporting has won all of its home games in the tournament this season but had yet to concede a goal at Jose Alvalade Stadium.
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