La Liga Santander leaders Real Madrid crashed out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday after losing to Athletic Club at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao. It was a dramatic match that was decided in the 89th minute when Athletic scored the only goal of the evening to secure the 1-0 victory.

Many spectators and perhaps even players were already resigned to the idea that the match will go into extra time. However. Alex Berenguer scored the late goal that ended the evening early and with the hosts on top.

Athletic Club are through to the Copa del Rey semi-finals, while Real Madrid have been eliminated from the competition once again, dashing their hopes of a domestic treble this season. It was a disappointing evening for Los Blancos, who were missing top scorer Karim Benzema due to a hamstring injury. They also clearly suffered from fatigue, with both Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo starting the match despite having just returned all the way from Brazil. Despite this, manager Carlo Ancelotti did not see it fit to start with Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale or Luka Jovic.

It can be considered an upset, and what a revenge it was for Athletic, who had just recently lost 2-0 to Los Blancos in the Supercopa de España final in Saudi Arabia last month. Bilbao will be facing either Rayo Vallecano, Valencia or Real Betis in the semi-finals. Interestingly, the "big three" of Spanish football have all been eliminated. FC Barcelona and defending La Liga champions Atletico Madrid have all bowed out of the competition alongside Real Madrid.

Over at La Liga Santander however, Los Blancos still hold a four-point lead over Sevilla. The next closest challengers are Real Betis, who are ten points behind. Real Madrid needs to shake off the Andalusian teams and widen the gap in the next few weeks in order to comfortably navigate the closing stages of the season towards a record-extending 35th La Liga title. For now, anything can still happen and the title race is still open.

San Mames
The San Mames stadium in Bilbao AFP / ANDER GILLENEA