Real Sociedad 2-1 Athletic Bilbao
If there was any doubt how important this match was for both sides, I urge you to read the SBOTOP preview which highlighted just how much Basque passion there is and what a contest like this means to those involved.
The fact this result moves Real Sociedad up into a European place in the La Liga standings as a result, was merely a home bonus as local bragging rights were secured.
And it was the in-form Swede, Alexander Isak, who ultimately made the difference in their 2-1 victory over Athletic Club in the Basque derby.
Bilbao, seeking their first win in the derby since victory 18 months ago, were ultimately deflated; Sociedad elated.
Highlights of the game
It was Isak who had been one of their heroes in midweek with a brace to knock Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey on their own turf.
Now, here he was again, proving the difference to send home fans into raptures.
That was a major boost, especially as the hosts had suffered a blow before kick-off with the news on-loan Real Madrid midfielder Martin Odegaard had not made the team due to injury sustained in that midweek cup triumph.
Both teams had struggled in the league recently, with Athletic entering the weekend winless in seven consecutive games and Sociedad having lost three of their last four matches.
A poor first half also followed with few chances. The home side went closest and the best opportunities fell to Cristian Portu and Mikel Merino but it was goalless at the break.
La Liga highlights were to follow through when Isak entered the fray.
The Swede was left on the bench from the start after starring at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu before entering the pitch ten minutes after the restart.
It was his cutback which found Portu to open the scoring for the hosts at Anoeta shortly after his introduction.
Imanol Alguacil’s side weren’t in front for long as Inaki Williams slotted past Alex Remiro to equalise.
It was a fine combination between two substitutes as Iker Muniain and Williams combined to devastating effect to hand Gaizka Garitano’s team a leveller.
Both Copa semi-finalists pushed forward in search of a winner in the remaining 20 minutes and Sociedad found it when Isak pounced to score.
This time Portu turned provider for his strike partner, producing a perfect backheel assist which Isak converted at the second attempt.
It was the eighth goal in the last six games for the 20-year-old.
Bilbao’s frustrations were summed up in the closing stages when they were reduced to 10 men as Iker Muniain saw red for a wild challenge on Mikel Oyarzabal.
That set the seal on the fourth victory for Sociedad in the last five derbies in the Basque Country.
Study the La Liga predictions carefully – Sociedad remain just two points off a Champions League berth.
And my money is on these sides meeting in the showpiece of the Spanish season in May as well – what a Copa del Rey occasion that would be!
Sociedad have now won three consecutive home Basque derbies in all competitions for the first time since 1987.
Portu has been involved in 14 goals in La Liga this season (seven goals and seven assists) – that is more than any other Spanish player.
It’s the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final next for Sociedad against giant-killers Mirandes. They then travel to Eibar in La Liga next Sunday (February 16).
Bilbao are also in cup action as they host Granada in their semi-final, reward for knocking out Barcelona, followed by a home meeting with Osasuna a week today.
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