The Basque derby took place at San Mames, the home of Athletic Bilbao, late Friday night. With the season on the line, the derby was a must-win for the hosts.
Real Sociedad entered the competition sitting in sixth place on the La Liga table. A win on the road would further contribute to one of the best seasons of the last few years continue for Sociedad.
The hosts found the back of the net early, but it was Real Sociedad who finished off the game with three solid goals. The Basque derby was easily decided, but very few predicted the game to turn out the way it did.
Things began just the way fans would have expected. Atheltic Bilbao took the majority of the possession and created a vast amount of chances.
For the first 15 minutes, Bilbao had Real Sociedad scrambling. A goal looked very likely, but the last ball was missing for the home side. It was then that Sociedad began to come to life.
The visitors began to press heavily and made things very tough for their host.
After the 20 minute mark, box-to-box play was dominating the game. But surprisingly, neither side had found the back of the net.
Athletic Bilbao showed their strength over their rivals by eventually taking control of the game again. A few shots were put into the box and goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was forced to bail his side out.
Fittingly, it was Athletic Bilbao who opened up the scoring.
Jon Aurtenetxe sent in a long cross from deep on the wing which found Ibai Gomez. The Basque attacker volleyed the shot into the top of the net and gave his side the 1-0 lead. At this point, things looked to be heading downhill for the visitors.
But Real Sociedad would not be outdone as they drew level in the 34th minute.
A cross from Castro found the head of Antoine Griezmann at the near post. The rising star headed the ball across the goal to the back post. The amazing goal for Sociedad put the score at 1-1 which held until the halftime whistle.
No changes were made at the start of the second half and both teams picked up where they left off. Bilbao continued to control the tempo of the match, but the visitors still made things very difficult.
There were not many chances as the second half wore on and Marcelo Bielsa decided to bring on young star Iker Muniain.
The substitution should have put the match even more in the favor of the hosts, but it would be Sociedad who took the lead.
A free kick from deep outside the box was whipped in by the visitors as the cross fell harmlessly to the keeper. But Raul bobbled the ball after a tough bounce and Imanol Agirretxe pounced on the spilled chance to slot home.
With Real Sociedad now leading 2-1, the game looked to be yet another disappointing loss for Athletic Bilbao.
With the match on the line, manager Marcelo Bielsa again turned to his bench as Fernando Llorente was brought on. But similar to what happened after the first sub, it would be Sociedad who capitalized.
David Zurutuza sent a beautiful through ball past the Bilbao defense to find Carlos Vela on a strong break. The Sociedad man settled and slotted the ball to the far corner out of reach of the Bilbao keeper.
Real Sociedad then lead their hosts by a score of 3-1. Carlos Vela’s goal immediately settled the match.
As the rest of the match continued, it was clear that Bilbao already knew it was over. Not many chances were created for either side and soon the final whistle blew at San Mames.
La Real have moved above Valencia and into 5th in the league, just 2 points of Malaga who occupy a Champions League spot, 13 games to go.— Gary Linton (@AlbaEspana) February 22, 2013
The win will temporarily move Real Sociedad level with Valencia for the fifth spot on the La Liga table. But with no points picked up for Athletic Bilbao, they will remain only six points from the relegation zone.
What does this game mean for both clubs? Will Bilbao face relegation? Can Sociedad stay in the European position? Don't forget to leave your thoughts and comments below.
Tre' Atkinson. Follow me on twitter for more discussions on Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, and La Liga.