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Athletic in seventh heaven

Thursday, 16 December 2004

[1] Athletic Club Bilbao ended their UEFA Cup Group B campaign in spectacular fashion as they put seven goals past R. Standard de Liège to finish top of the section.

Ezquerro trio

[2] A hat-trick from Santiago Ezquerro, along with goals from Francisco Yeste, Andoni Iraola, Asier Del Horno and Joseba Etxeberria meant that Standard, whose only goal came from Oguchi Onyewu, finished bottom of the group.

Athletic boost

[3] Standard were without the suspended Philippe Léonard and Juan Ramon Curbelo, while Athletic were boosted by the return from injury of Tiko and Yeste. Spanish international Del Horno recovered from the ankle injury which saw him leave the field after scoring the winner in Saturday's 1-0 victory against Club Atlético De Madrid.

Lively start

[4] From the opening moments it was clear that this was not going to be a dull affair as Sambegou Bangoura headed wide for the home team and six minutes in Athletic took the lead. A great move involving Etxeberria and Tiko ended with the midfield player sliding the ball across for Ezquerro to tap in from close range.

Birthday joy

[5] Three minutes later the man who celebrated his 28th birthday two days ago doubled his tally. On the counterattack he found himself faced with only Ivica Dragutinovic to beat, and after cutting inside the Serbo-Montenegrin he calmly slotted the ball past Vedran Runje.

Standard fightback

[6] Standard fought back and just five minutes later brought the deficit back to a single goal. A Sergio Conceição free-kick was lofted into the penalty area and Onyewu rose to glance a header into the bottom corner.

Goalkeeper heroics

[7] In a very competitive opening period, Portuguese winger Conceição was a constant threat, coming close to an equaliser only for his acrobatic effort to be saved by Daniel Aranzubia. Not to be outdone, at the other end Runje pulled off a save diving to his right to stop an Iraola penalty after Etxeberria had been brought down by Eric Deflandre. But it mattered little as Yeste made it 3-1 ten minutes before the break with a superb solo effort after cutting in from the right.

Hope extinguished

[8] Still Standard looked a threat, however, and either side of half-time came close to putting themselves back into the contest, coming closest when Ander Murillo headed against his own crossbar. However, when Ezquerro completed his hat-trick on 55 minutes, with an easy finish from an Etxeberria centre, all hope the home side had was extinguished.

Goal glut

[9] Standard then realised their UEFA Cup dream was over, and Athletic duly took full advantage. On 58 minutes Iraola made amends for his earlier penalty miss when Etxeberria was brought down by Onyewu - placing the ball to the motionless Runje's left.

Skipper's joy

[10] On 64 minutes Del Horno headed in at the far post, before Etxeberria got the goal his performance merited. The captain turned the ball into an unguarded net, after Ismael Urzaiz had seen his shot blocked, to complete the biggest victory in the UEFA Cup group stage.

Santiago Ezquerro (top) celebrates scoring