BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Struggling in the Spanish league and the Europa League, Athletic Bilbao was fortunate to escape with a 0-0 draw from its visit to third-division Eibar in the fourth round of the Copa del Rey on Thursday.
Fernando Llorente made his first start of the season for Bilbao since refusing to extend his contract with his boyhood club beyond next summer.
But even with the Spain striker on the pitch with a first-choice side, Bilbao was outplayed by the fellow Basque club.
The 23-time cup winner Bilbao showed none of the verve that led it to last year's final. Eibar, meanwhile, created three clear scoring chances in the first half that its forwards failed to finish.
"We played poorly in the first half and should have been losing by halftime," said Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa, whose team has only won two of its first nine games in the Spanish league and is winless in three games in its Europa League group.
"It may sound strange to hear — I'm not especially disappointed with drawing with Eibar. But it would be arrogant to say that we showed we were better than our rival."
Bilbao was not the only favorite to flop in the opening leg of the knockout series on Thursday. Fellow first-division sides Levante, Real Sociedad and Osasuna all lost to lower-division opponents.
Levante will have to look to bounce back in the second leg from a 1-0 loss at third-tier Melilla.
Melilla midfielder Fernando Velasco scored from the penalty spot in the 39th after being fouled by Nikolaos Karampelas. Melilla, the team of one of Spain's two enclave cities on the north African coast, held on for the victory despite Carlos David receiving his second booking in the 71st.
"There are no excuses for the result," said Levante coach Juan Ignacio Martinez. "Our rival went for the win and the risk paid off. We need to remember that we can't lose our sense of humility."
Cordoba, playing in the second division, beat visiting Sociedad 2-0 at Arcangel stadium with goals by Javier Patino and Vincenzo Rennella.