Mikel Oyarzabal delivered the decisive blow from the penalty spot as Real Sociedad edged Basque neighbours Athletic Club 1-0 in the 2019/20 Copa del Rey final.
The match, which was delayed by 12 months in the hope that fans from both teams would be able to attend, was the first final in history contested by the Basque Country’s two biggest clubs.
To add an extra dimension to the event, the heavens opened above the Estadio La Cartuja in Seville shortly after kick-off, making what was already a frantic start to proceedings that much more intense.
The most strenuous save made by either of the two goalkeepers in the opening 45 minutes was that of Alex Remiro, who had to use every inch of his reach to tip over a long shot from former Real Sociedad defender, Inigo Martinez.
Martinez was at the centre of two big calls from referee Xavier Estrada Fernandez at the beginning of the second half. After a lengthy VAR check, the centre-back was adjudged to have handballed Oyarzabal’s cross outside of the penalty area.
He wasn’t so fortunate a few minutes later, though, as this time pulled up for a trip on Cristian Portu inside the box. Martinez had stretched to cut off Oyarzabal’s cross, with Portu reaching the ball before him.
There was reprieve in the fact that, after another VAR review, Martinez’s red card was downgraded to yellow. Oyarzabal had no mercy from the spot, sending Unai Simon the wrong way to give Imanol Alguacil’s side a valuable lead.
Marcelino made changes in an attempt to swing fortune in his favour, but the likes of Unai Lopez and Asier Villalibre, who had found the net in the Supercopa de Espana final earlier in the season, were not able to find a way past La Real’s dedicated defence.
The leaders’ own substitutes, namely Ander Barrenetxea and Carlos Fernandez, looked to profit with their pace on the break as Athletic searched for an equaliser. On one such counter, the former forced a save from Unai Simon.
The eight minutes added on for stoppage time must have felt like an eternity for the Real Sociedad supporters back in San Sebastian, but when you’ve waited 12 months to play your final and 34 years for a major honour, you can hold off on the celebrations a little longer.
Those celebrations arrived with the final whistle, with Real Sociedad picking up their first trophy of this stature since the Copa del Rey in 1987. Athletic will return to Seville in two weeks’ time for the 2020/21 final against Barcelona.