SEVILLE: Athletic Bilbao won the Spanish cup final for the first time since 1983 by edging Mallorca 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 extra-time draw in Seville.

Success made amends for two final defeats in the past five years and was the Lions’ 24 all-time victory, four more than Real Madrid and seven fewer than Barcelona. Coach Ernesto Valverde’s men werealways favourites, sitting fifth in LALiga, two points outside of the Champions League position and 10 places and twenty-five points ahead of Mallorca.

Athletic had lost their previous six consecutive Spanish cup finals and a Europa League final to Atletico Madrid in 2012.

Their 23-year-old keeper Julen Agirrezabala, who made a couple of brilliant saves during the game, saved one spot kick in the shootout from Mallorca’s Manu Morlanes, while Nemanja Radonjic skied his effort.

Athletic’s penalty takers were flawless in their execution, scoring four in a row to secure the win that crown a brilliant season under the guidance of ex-Barca manager Valverde, in which they are also bidding for a top-four LaLiga finish.

“I’m so happy to have made history at this club, the club of my life! I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time. I’ve given everything for my family, my friends…” an emotional man-of-the-match Nico Williams told TVE.

“The fans have always been with us and they deserve it, let’s enjoy it. It’s a dream to win with the club of my life. Everyone can enjoy it now and celebrate!”

The game had finished 1-1 after extra time. Despite Bilbao dominating proceedings with almost 70pc of possession, Dani Rodriguez fired in a curling shot after a couple of other efforts had been charged down, giving Mallorca the lead in the 21st minute.

Ohian Sancet equalised in the 50th minute before Bilbao laid siege to Mallorca’s goal, with keeper Dominik Greif working his magic to deny several efforts by the Basque players.

Athletic wasted several other chances to score late on, including Williams hitting the post in extra time.
But a gritty Mallorca outfit, who were aiming for only the second major trophy in their history after their Copa del Rey win in 2003, held strong in defence and were a threat in counter-attacks as well, before finally succumbing in the shootout.

Bilbao are the fourth oldest Spanish club and among three never to be relegated, alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona, while staying loyal to their unique philosophy of only fielding players of Basque origin, considering it a badge of honor.