Athletic Club’s 40-Year Wait For A Major Trophy Comes To A Successful End

The end of the European soccer season is drawing nearer, with title races reaching at their last stages and cup finals being decided.

One of the top features, nonetheless, was the Copa del Rey final between Athletic Club and Mallorca, where Athletic Club prevailed on penalties.

After an hour and a half, thirty minutes of additional time and a penalty shootout, Athletic Club’s 40-year wait for a significant trophy came to an end.

Almost three hours of tension ended in an explosion of emotion from the Basque half of La Cartuja stadium as Álex Berenguer’s spot kick found the net, giving Athletic a 4-2 shootout win over Real Mallorca — after the game had finished 1-1 — to see them lift the Copa del Rey for the first time since 1984.

Generations of Athletic fans had never seen their team win the cup. They had lost five Copa del Rey finals over the most recent 15 years. However, this final was a nail-gnawing show and snapshots of real quality from the two teams.

One of them was Dani Rodríguez’s first goal for Mallorca in the 21st minute, twisting into the corner after two shots from teammates had been kept under control. One more was Oihan Sancet’s equaliser, right off the bat in the final part, from Nico Williams’ sharp pass.

Nico Williams was the game’s exceptional player, and the winger was named MVP. Nico was a steady danger, truth be told. He could have scored a hat-trick, with a first-half goal denied for offside, trailed by a work put into the side netting, and later a shot redirected inches wide in additional time.

Athletic had gone forty years without a significant trophy, but Mallorca had just won one in their whole history, the 2003 Copa. An expected 90,000 Athletic fans had made a trip down from Bilbao to Seville for the game, a large numbers of them without tickets and filled the downtown area for quite a long time before start off.

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Mallorca fans filled the stadium in their numbers as well, yet they were the underdogs pursuing a fantasy; Athletic were feeling the squeeze to deliver.

Athletic were the better side, with more possession (69% ) to Mallorca’s 31% and more shots of 30 to 13 making a xG, or expected goals scored, of 2.47 to Mallorca’s 0.58. However, Mallorca had their moments as well and remained in the game right until the end.

Canada international Cyle Larin had a great chance to make it 2-0 before Sancet levelled. In extra time, Vedat Muriqi had a header well saved by keeper Julen Agirrezabala. And then to penalties, with two goalkeepers who are second choice for these clubs in LaLiga but had been given the chance to impress in the Copa: Agirrezabala and Mallorca’s Dominik Greif.

Agirrezabala saved from Manu Morlanes to give Athletic the advantage, before Mallorca’s Nemanja Radonjic shot over the bar. Berenguer buried the decisive penalty, and Athletic’s long-awaited party could finally begin.

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