Athletic and Real Sociedad were both coming off the high of qualifying for the Copa del Rey semifinals as they took the field at Anoeta on Sunday. With the Cup the top priority at this point, both managers rested a number of key players but that didn’t take any of the intensity away from the Basque Derby. In what was a tale of two halves, the match was full of drama and intrigue.
Unsurprisingly, La Real started the game strong and took full control early on. Athletic were pinned back into their own half but defended well for the most part. Unai Simón was called upon to make a diving save in the opening minutes of the game and the back line had to clear a few dangerous balls into the box.
Athletic struggled going forward as the attackers were unable to build a rhythm or link up play. Gaizka Garitano’s side regularly gave away possession with bad passes which led to a number of promising chances for Real Sociedad. However, Athletic found their composure in the final 10 minutes of the first half and created a few chances with crosses into the box.
Coming out of the break, both managers looked to make changes to give their side a better chance of winning. Iker Muniain was brought on to start the half and was soon followed by Iñaki Williams and Dani García. However, it would be Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak who really changed the game after entering.
After getting the best of Yeray two times in a matter of minutes, Isak would set up Cristian Portu in the 65th minute to open the scoring. With the lead in hand it looked as though La Real had already won the three points, but Athletic had other plans. Six minutes later Muniain played Williams through on goal and the forward tucked a shot past Alex Remiro to level the score.
The final 20 minutes was full of intense football, but it would be La Real who eventually found the decisive goal when Isak cleaned up his own rebound to give Real Sociedad a 2-1 lead and the victory. There was a bit of unnecessary drama at the end of the match as well when Muniain made a harsh tackle on Mikel Oyarzabal and was rightly given a straight red card.
Muniain, along with Dani García, will miss next weekend’s league match against Osasuna at San Mamés. In the end, the loss to La Real was disappointing but Athletic still hold the tiebreaker if needed at the end of the season and several players were able to have some rest ahead of Wednesday’s Copa del Rey semifinal first leg against Granada.