On practice field, titleholder Real Betis advances in Copa

MADRID (AP) — Real Betis began the defense of its Copa del Rey title with a 4-1 win against fourth-division club Ibiza in a round-of-32 match played in front of only a few thousand fans at a practice field in the Balearic Islands on Thursday.

The hosts surprisingly opened the scoring through Pepe Bernal in the 26th minute, but Betis rallied in the second half with goals from Willian José, Edgar González, Nabil Fekir and an own goal by Iker Murua before a crowd of less than 2,000 fans.

“We kept our calm despite going down a goal,” said Betis coach Manuel Pellegrini, who spoke from a cafeteria after the game because there was no press conference room at the site. “These are always complicated matches.”

The game was played in what is used mostly as a practice facility because Ibiza couldn’t reach an agreement with local officials to host it at the bigger Can Misses stadium.

“It was strange that an attractive match like this wasn’t played at the bigger stadium,” Pellegrini said. “It would have been a better spectacle, with more fans, and I wouldn’t have to speak to you from a cafeteria.”

Betis, which last season won its fifth Copa title, was among the four teams entering the competition in this round because they are playing in the Spanish Super Cup that begins next week, along with Valencia, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Valencia was runner-up to Betis in last year’s Copa final. All four teams advanced to the last 16.

In other results Thursday, Athletic Bilbao — a 23-time Copa winner, second only to Barcelona’s 31 titles — routed third-division club Eldense 6-1, with Nico Williams, Alejandro Berenguer and Iker Muniain among the scorers for the Basque Country team.

The other first-division club to advance Thursday was Osasuna, though it needed extra time to defeat third-division opponent Gimnastic 2-1 after a 1-1 draw in regulation.

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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