Seville, Spain, Apr 3 (efe-epa).- Mikel Oyarzabal’s successful penalty in the 63rd minute made the difference here Saturday as Real Sociedad nipped Athletic Bilbao 1-0 to win the Copa del Rey for their third time in their history.
In yet another dislocation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Saturday’s contest was for the 2020 title.
Spain’s soccer federation agreed to the unprecedented delay in the hope that conditions would have improved enough to allow supporters in the stands for the Basque region’s equivalent of the Clasico
But with a third wave of infection under way, the match took place behind closed doors at Sevilla’s La Cartuga stadium.
As Sociedad hoisted their first trophy since they claimed the Copa del Rey in 1987, Athletic tried to console themselves with the thought that they will get a second bite of the apple later this month, when they are due to face Barcelona in the 2021 final.
Prognosticators rated Saturday’s game as a toss-up.
While Sociedad are 10 points and three places above Athletic in LaLiga, the Bilbao side have won the Copa 23 times, second only to Barcelona’s 30 titles.
Sociedad coach Imanol Alguacil had to deal with an unpleasant surprise before kickoff, as team captain Asier Illarramendi was hurt in the warm-up.
Forced to juggle his lineup, Alguacil put former Manchester City standout David Silva in the starting 11 for the first time since the veteran playmaker returned from injury.
Sociedad had the advantage on both possession and shots in the first half, yet the best chance was created by Athletic’s Iñigo Martinez, who forced a tremendous save from Alex Remiro in the 33rd minute.
The match was still 0-0 approaching the hour mark when Martinez conceded a penalty to Sociedad with a clumsy foul against Portu.
In fact, the referee initially showed Martinez a red card, though on reflection he changed it to yellow.
Oyarzabal converted with authority to make it 1-0 and Sociedad were able to see out the match. EFE