What an atmosphere San Mamés generates on big cup nights!
A clash between Athletic and Granada in LaLiga staged at San Mamés at this time of the year would have passed off inadvertently as just 'another game'. That said, a Copa del Rey semi-final game is a totally different proposition with no Barça, Madrid, Atlético involved and any of the four remaining sides strongly fancying their chances of glory. Last night's game was an intriguing contest and the atmosphere was electric from the off. How wonderful the atmosphere is on a cup night at San Mamés, or how wonderful the cup sounds at San Mamés, if you prefer. The game was a tight affair and the 1-0 scoreline really does keep the tie alive ahead of the second leg in March in Granada.
Athletic in control
Before carrying on, just a brief mention on how Iñaki Williams keeps improving with the striker now the finished article, as before he was a pacy forward but often lacking the finishing touch. Yesterday, he was a nightmare for the Granada defenders linking up well with Muniain with both players forcing the Andalusian side to always be on the back foot, even more so in the second half. Both Capa and Yuri on their respective wings were a constant source of danger for Athletic with the home side dominating the game and they will have been disappointed not to have secured a 2-0 result. The Basque side did have the ball in the net twice but VAR was on hand to rule out the second strike for Garitano's men. Granada did create a few openings towards the end of the clash but Unai Simón was on hand to avert the danger. Given the poor form being experienced by Kepa and De Gea, the Athletic keeper could be knocking on the door for a place in the Spain Euro 2020 squad.
Magic of the cup
There is now a three week gap ahead of the second leg of this tie with the return of the Champions League set to dominate the forthcoming mid-weeks. San Sebastián is the host city for today's second semi-final (first leg) as Real Sociedad face Mirandés with the second tier side making a habit of progressing to the latter stages of the Spanish Cup. This time around they've eliminated Celta, Sevilla and Villarreal and participate in their second ever Copa del Rey semi-final. The last time they reached the final four of the tournament, their adversary was Athletic who ironically fielded Andoni Iraola, who today coaches the side from Miranda del Ebro. 'La Real' start the tie as strong favourites, riding on the crest of a wave after eliminating Real Madrid last week and beating Athletic in the Basque derby last weekend. Fasten your seat belts as tonight is yet to deliver another high octane instalment of Copa del Rey action.
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