Madrid: Real Sociedad became the first team to qualify for the semifinals of the Copa del Rey with a 2-1 win away to Celta Vigo, who rested a host of key players and paid the price.
Perhaps with an eye on his side’s delicate league position, Celta coach Rafael Benitez left several regular starters such as Carles Perez, Unai Nunez, Iago Aspas, Oscar Mingueza and Jorgen Strand Larsen on the subs’ bench.
The changes clearly weakened his side, and led to a lack of coordination that allowed Real Sociedad to take the lead after two minutes as weak defending saw Celta fail to deal with a long throw, allowing Mikel Merino to hook the ball into the area, where the unmarked Mikel Oyarzabal had a simple header to score.
It was scrappy and slightly bad-tempered, with Celta unable to string much together going forward and Merino almost doubled the visitors’ lead midway through the half, only for Ivan Villar to make a competent save.
Real Sociedad suffered an injury setback just after the half-hour mark with left-back Kieran Tierney suffering his second hamstring injury of the season, with Aritz Elustondo coming into the game.
The injury didn’t affect the visitors, who were comfortable in defense while always threatening from set pieces, and Andre Silva went close as he stretched for a ball just before halftime.
Celta looked to react after the break, but failed to create anything to trouble Alex Remiro in the visitors’ goal, and Sheraldo Becker celebrated his debut for Real Sociedad with his side’s second goal in the 66th minute.
The Celta defense was around 10 meters in their rivals’ half, allowing Brais Mendez to thread a ball through the middle for Becker to run onto and score past Villar.
Luca de la Torre pulled a goal back for Celta in the 92nd minute after a layback from Strand Larsen, but there was no time to find an equalizer.
Athletic Bilbao entertain FC Barcelona, while league leaders Girona visit Mallorca on Wednesday, with Atletico Madrid at home to Sevilla on Thursday. IANS