Real Sociedad and Athletic through; Madrid and Barça, out
There was no shortage of emotion in this week’s Copa del Rey quarter finals – and last night, for the way in which two of the giants of our game were dumped out by the two great Basque clubs. Real Sociedad brought Real Madrid’s triumphant winning streak to an end with a brilliant performance. At one point, the Donostiarras were 1-4 up and playing the kind of silky football that reminded us of Ajax last season. Madrid managed to soften the blow a little with a late rally – and largely thanks to the visitors’ powers being reduced after two of their star performers were substituted: Ødegaard (due to injury) and Isak, both of them were stunning on the night. For three quarters of the game, Real Sociedad had bossed the game at the Bernabéu.
Zidane's team selection against Real Sociedad
La Real coach Imanol Alguacil travelled down to Madrid determined to give everything he had to win this tie, Zidane on the other hand, was too complacent. Madrid were without Casemiro, which meant that Fede Valverde had to change roles. James started and Modric was on the bench. At the back, the only first team regular was Sergio Ramos. All of the players in the starting line-up, apart from Brahim, were internationals, but as a team they just didn’t gel. Carrusel’s Dani Garrido pondered whether Zidane had rotated the team too much and he was proved right. Last night’s tie was all about remaining in the Copa or not and facing Madrid were one of the best teams in Spain. Madrid were disjointed, had no control in midfield and made a lot of mistakes in defence. Only Vinicius was at the level required for such a game and he produced practically of Madrid’s most dangerous moves on his own.
Athletic into the semi-finals at Barcelona's expense
Obviously, watching Madrid must have been a soothing sight for Barça, who are having troubles of their own. They had a similar task on their hands at San Mamés and they set about the job enthusiastically. But just like La Real, Athletic gave everything they had. San Mamés treated us to a sensational battle, one which Barça (and Messi) controlled but Athletic gave as good as they got. Barça were the team who looked closest to scoring but Athletic held firm and continued to threaten by hitting the visitors on either wing. That was how the game progressed up until stoppage-time, when Iñaki Williams’ winner put Athletic into the semi-finals and send the home fans wild with delight. There’s nothing quite like the Copa.
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