Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images
Barcelona finally ended the Curse of the Anoeta Stadium on Thursday, grabbing their first win over Real Sociedad in San Sebastian since 2007 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey.
Neymar scored the only goal from the penalty spot, delivering the hard-fought win. The two sides will meet again for the return leg in one week.
In Thursday’s other Copa del Rey clash, Atletico Madrid cruised to a win over Eibar.
Here are Thursday’s results:
Barcelona were eager to finally end their miserable run at the Anoeta, and while they didn’t play their best football before half-time, a lackluster showing from the hosts made sure the Catalans remained in control.
Neymar opened the score from the penalty spot after a poor challenge from Aritz Elustondo, confidently slotting the ball home. Fans started to get excited:
The Anoeta would soon live up to its reputation, however. Andres Iniesta ended the first half playing at a walking pace and was subbed off at half-time, and as soon as the midfielder left the fray, La Real pushed forward.
David Zurutuza was furious when he was wrongly flagged down for offside after a clever free-kick routine, and the Basques got even angrier when Lionel Messi wasn’t sent off for remonstrating to the referee, despite carrying a yellow card.
Team-mate Neymar joined him in the referee’s book for diving to try and win a penalty, and the Catalans struggled to deal with heaps of Basque pressure.
*resisting the urge to feel optimistic about a game at Anoeta*
— Jen Evelyn (@JenFCB) January 19, 2017
The pressure faded as time wore on, however, and Barcelona regained control toward the final whistle. Andre Gomes nearly added a second goal, which would have all but ended the tie.
Atletico were barely troubled during their win over Eibar, all but booking their spot in the semi-finals by the time the first leg ended.
Antoine Griezmann opened the scoring after 28 minutes, and while the Rojiblancos were far from their best during the first half, the visitors didn’t trouble Diego Simeone’s troops all that much.
Angel Correa doubled the lead after an hour of play, and per Atleti English, it marked a special moment for Simeone:
ANDER GILLENEA/Getty Images
Eight minutes later, Kevin Gameiro added his name to the scoresheet as well, as Eibar folded in the second half and all but ruined their chances of a major upset in the second leg.
After the match, Jose Maria Gimenez made it clear the tie isn’t over yet, however:
⚽️ @AngelCorrea32 scored the GOAL 5️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ since @Simeone manages the team
Congratulations! 😀 #GoAtleti‼️#KingsCup #AtletiEibar pic.twitter.com/EBtFj7ozUA
— Atleti English (@atletienglish) January 19, 2017
The two sides will meet for the return leg on Wednesday, and thanks to Atletico’s healthy lead, Simeone will be able to drop several of his key players to the bench to start the match, giving them some much-needed rest.
Real Sociedad will travel to the Camp Nou next Thursday.