Real Sociedad edges Athletic Bilbao to win Copa del Rey final

Real Sociedad wins the Copa del Rey crown for the first time since 1987.

Real Sociedad's Carlos Fernandez celebrates with the trophy.   -  AP

Real Sociedad beat local rival Athletic Bilbao 1-0 in the rescheduled 2020 Copa del Rey final on Saturday to get its hands on a major trophy for the first time since 1987.

Captain Mikel Oyarzabal netted the winner by sending keeper Unai Simon the wrong way from the penalty spot in the 63rd minute after strike partner Portu was felled in the area by Athletic defender Inigo Martinez.

Martinez, a boyhood Sociedad player who left for their rival for EUR 32 million (USD 37.64 million) in a controversial transfer in 2018, was initially shown a red card for the foul but the referee downgraded the punishment to a yellow card after a VAR review. Sociedad dominated possession and Athletic failed to test its opponent on the counter-attack, still offering little in attack even as it chased the game deep into the second half.

The match was postponed by a year at the request of both clubs to ensure fans could attend, meaning Athletic surrendered a potential Europa League berth. But continued coronavirus restrictions in Spain meant the showpiece in Seville's La Cartuja stadium took place without any supporters.

‘Beautiful day’

Athletic has now lost its last five Copa finals but has another shot at the trophy when it plays Barcelona in this season's showpiece back at La Cartuja on April 17. “It's a beautiful day on which so many things come to your mind. Giving this victory to our fans was the best thing we could do,” said match-winner Oyarzabal.

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“There are many people who would like to have been here and there are many friends and family who left us in the worst possible way. This is for everyone, we felt their presence. There's nothing like this feeling.”

Athletic's Oscar de Marcos described the defeat as “a massive blow.”

“It's very tough for us, this was a match we were so excited about and thought we could win,” he said. “It's very painful whenever you lose a final, regardless of who you lose to. It's a very sad day for us.”

Sociedad's vice-captain Asier Illarramendi lifted the trophy next to Oyarzabal after being forced to miss the final due to a thigh injury sustained in Friday's training session, the latest setback in a series of serious injuries which led to him spending 18 months on the sidelines.