Sociedad beat Bilbao in Basque derby

Mikel Oyarzabal of Real Sociedad compete for the ball with Nico Williams of Athletic Club during the LaLiga Santander match between Real Sociedad and Athletic Club at Reale Arena on January 14, 2023 in San Sebastian, Spain.

It was a night of revelry in San Sebastian as Real Sociedad rolled over their fiercest rivals and celebrated one of their most beloved players scoring his first goal since a long injury layoff.

Mikel Oyarzabal netted his first goal in nearly 10 months after recently returning from a serious knee injury to seal a 3-1 win over 10-man Athletic Bilbao in the Basque Country's top regional derby on Saturday.

Takefusa Kubo featured for Sociedad with a goal to make it 2-0 after Alexander Sorloth opened the scoring. The Japan winger also earned a penalty that left Bilbao a man down and sent Oyarzabal to the spot to successfully convert.

A fourth straight win in the Spanish league strengthened third-placed Sociedad's hold on a Champions League spot.

It may still be too early to consider Imanol Alguacil's team a contender for the Liga title, but the victory closed the gap with second-placed Real Madrid to three points and leader Barcelona to six.

Sorloth revved up the raucous Reale Arena crowd when he won a high ball between two defenders and fired past Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon in the 25th minute. The Norwegian striker has 11 goals in all competitions, compared to eight in all of 2021-22.

Kubo added a second goal in the 37th after being set up by David Silva. The former Manchester City playmaker stole the ball from Mikel Vesga and played Kubo clear to slip the ball between the legs of Daniel Vivian and beat Simon.

Bilbao's Oihan Sancet pulled one back in the 41st from a tight angle after a passing combination with Nico Williams and Yuri Berchiche.

But Kubo helped restore the two-goal lead after he intercepted an errant pass by Williams back toward his defence. Kubo was shoved down in the box by Yeray Alvarez, who was shown a direct red card.

Oyarzabal, who replaced the injured Sorloth, drove in the 62nd-minute spot kick.

Oyarzabal was a leader of Sociedad and a regular Spain player before he tore a ligament in his left knee in March, ruling him out of the World Cup.

The striker etched his name into the history of the Basque Country derby when he scored the only goal of Sociedad's 1-0 win over Bilbao in the 2020 Copa del Rey final.

Bilbao slipped to eighth place after the defeat.

Madrid and Barcelona have their games for this round delayed as they prepare to meet in the Spanish Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

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