SEVILLE, Spain – Real Sociedad played Real Betis to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their Copa del Rey round-of-16 matchup on Thursday night even though the hosts were superior overall and had more scoring opportunities.
The visitors created the opening chance of the first-leg contest in the sixth minute at Benito Villamarin Stadium when Luca Sangalli received a pass in the area but was unable to get a shot off against a defender and Betis net minder Joel Robles.
But Quique Setien’s men seized the initiative with the use of a high press and started putting the opposing goalkeeper, Geronimo Rulli, under pressure.
At around the half-hour mark, Joaquin nearly opened the scoring with a long-range shot that went over Rulli’s head but clanked off the top of the crossbar.
The visitors rarely pushed the ball into the other half of the field and had difficulty maintaining possession but they managed to keep the game scoreless thanks to Rulli, who did well to save a powerful left-footed shot by Andres Guardado just before the intermission.
Betis maintained their intensity at the start of the second half, but Rulli dove to this right to save a pair of left-footed shots by Giovani Lo Celso in the 46th minute and 61st minutes, respectively.
Although Real Sociedad appeared to be satisfied with locking down defensively and keeping the round-of-16 clash scoreless heading into next week’s second leg, Robles had to intervene to snuff out a golden scoring opportunity by Juanmi in the 74th minute.
“We had chances ... in general we were better and deserved to win,” Setien said, adding that Real Sociedad did not play badly but had to try to capitalize on chances that Betis offered them.
The second leg of this round-of-16 matchup in Copa del Rey, Spain’s annual knockout soccer tournament, will be played on Jan. 17 at Real Sociedad’s home ground, Anoeta Stadium.