Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Mallorca (AET)

Athletic Bilbao win 4-2 on penalties

The Copa is ours again. “Kopa da gurea”. The one we had to wait so long for, when in the early hours of Sunday morning Ernesto Valverde’s Lions lifted the trophy after a heart-stopping final against RCD Mallorca.

After disposing of Spanish heavyweights Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on their way to the final, Athletic Bilbao finally ended their run of six successive Copa del Rey final defeats as they earned a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Mallorca to end a 40-year wait for silverware.

It was their 24th Copa del Rey title, albeit the first since 1984,  when Alex Berenguer stepped up to seal a 4-2 win in the shootout in Seville.

It sparked jubilant scenes at a sold-out La Cartuja stadium and ended Athletic’s painful recent run in the competition, during which they lost two finals in as many weeks in 2021.

But although Athletic Club returned to Bilbao on Sunday, they now have to wait until Thursday le so that, from La Gabarra, they can present the long-awaited 25th Copa title to the Zurirgorri family.

On Saturday Athletic were celebrating long into the night (quite literally: the final got underway at 10pm local time with the decisive penalty kick struck just before 1am).

Nevertheless, after Dani Rodriguez fired Mallorca ahead in the 21st minute after Athletic failed to clear from a corner, Oihan Sancet drew Bilbao level shortly after the interval, curling in after the influential Nico Williams regained possession and played him through.

Neither side was able to find a winner, with the final eventually decided in the worst possible manner, in the early hours of Sunday morning, on penalties.

In the shootout, the 23-year-old Agirrezabala saved Manu Morlanes’ spot-kick and Nemanja Radonjic missed the target, as Athletic’s first four penalty takers all found the net. Athletic finally won the shoot-out 4-2, with Julen Agirrezabala the star of the match and Alex Berenguer scoring the final penalty.

Only Barcelona, with 31, have won the trophy on more occasions than Athletic, Spain’s fourth-oldest club who maintain a unique philosophy of only fielding players of Basque origin.