efe-epaBilbao, Spain

Sevilla have one foot in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey, Spain's annual knockout soccer competition, after defeating Athletic Bilbao 3-1 here Thursday night at San Mames Stadium.

The visitors were superior overall, although this first-leg contest could have been much closer if an apparent goal by Aritz Aduriz around five minutes before first-half stoppage time had not been overturned by the video assistant referee (VAR) system.

Sevilla got inspired play early on from Nolito, who fouled goalkeeper Unai Simon in one determined scoring effort before putting the ball inside the right post off a pass from Franco "Mudo" Vasquez in the sixth minute.

Athletic bounced back from the early deficit and put pressure on Sevilla's defense, although clunky finishing by Ander Capa and Markel Susaeta proved costly for the home side.

Even so, Aduriz seemed to score the equalizer with a left-footed shot off a rejection by Sevilla net minder Juan Soriano in the 39th minute.

The striker hurt himself on the play and the VAR system then added insult to injury by annulling the goal, ruling that Athletic had been offside at the start of the sequence.

After the break, the hosts kept the pressure on and finally got a ball across the line when Mikel San Jose headed a corner kick off Soriano's left hand and into the right side of the goal in the 49th minute.

The score remained tied for less than four minutes though, with Nolito sending a through-ball behind Athletic's back line to set up Andre Silva for a relatively easy finish past Simon in minute 53.

After Susaeta botched a chance for Athletic to tie the game a second time, Sevilla striker Wissam Ben Yedder unleashed a powerful right-footed strike from the edge of the area in the 77th minute for the game's final goal.

The second and final leg of the teams' round-of-16 clash will be played on Jan. 16 at Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.