Kowalczyk celebrates his magnificent goal.

HISTORY / Kowalczyk’s best night

Real Betis beat Real Sociedad in 1995 in a Copa del Rey round that will be remembered because of the impressive goal that Polish striker Wojciech Kowalczyk scored

By Manolo Rodríguez

The first time Real Betis and Real Sociedad met in Copa del Rey was in 1931. The tournament was back then named after King Alfonso XIII. The round was marked by history itself. The first leg was played on Patronato field (Betis home ground) on the 12th of April 1931, and that same Sunday local elections were held in the country. The results provoked the fell of monarchy and the beginning of the II Republic.

The match was won by the Green and Whites (in Second Division at that moment) 5-1, an impressive event in Spanish football, as the Basques were third in the league the previous year with the same number of points as the champion (Athletic de Bilbao) and the runner-up (Racing de Santander), in an exciting tie that was resolved by goal difference.

The second leg of that Last 32 round was played on the 3rd of May of 1931. The cup was no longer King Alfonso XIII but President of the Republic Cup. Also, the match was played between two teams that had changed their names. Real Betis just Betis Balompié and Real Sociedad was Sociedad de Fútbol de San Sebastián, and in June changed to Donostia FC.

In spite of losing 4-1 at Atocha, Betis got through and continued winning round until they reached the final against Athletic de Bilbao. A great success that was the beforemath of the promotion that arrived one year later.

The second time béticos and 'realistas' met in the cup was in 1965. Also in the Last 32. The Green and Whites had certified their stay in the top division one week earlier at Camp Nou.

A Good attendance in that night game. Before the kick off, Betis striker Fernando Ansola received the top-scorer award of the previous season.

Real Sociedad won the match 1-2, with goals scored by Urreisti and Amas. The Green and White goal came through Rogelio. The Basque side also won the second leg -2-0 this time- and with same goal scorers. It was an unexpected outcome, exactly the opposite of what had happened in 1931, as Real Sociedad were in Second Division. This did not stop them to complete a great tournament and reach the semi-finals. It was enough for Betis to maintain the division that year after a turbulent year in which four different coaches managed the team.

Three decades had to gone by to see a new clash between these two teams in Copa del Rey. It was on the 26th of January of 1995. Betis was in great form that season under Lorenzo Serra Ferrer, just one year after achieving the promotion to the top division. Four days before, the team had won at Sevilla's ground with a penalty scored by Alexis and the fans were in the highest spirits. Six games in a row without losing and fifth in the league table.

In that atmosphere, Real Betis went to play for the first time in the recently opened Anoeta stadium.

In Real Sociedad, Imanol Alguacil, then right back and current txuri-urdin manager was out for the match and, even if Serra made several changes in the eleven, nothing was holding that powerful Betis back. The Green and Whites were better in general in the game, had the best chances and won 0-1 thanks to a goal scored by Ureña in the 46th minute.

These were the line-ups:
Real Sociedad: Alberto, Fuentes, Loren, Picabea, Aranzábal, Lumbreras, Imaz (Iturrino 47'), Karpin, De Pedro; Luis Pérez (Idiakez 62'), Kodro.    
Real Betis: Diezma, Merino, Ureña, Vidakovic, Josete, Cañas, Roberto Ríos, Alexis, Menéndez, Sabas (Olías 70'), Kowalczyk.

Back from San Sebastián, Betis hosted Real Madrid at Villamarín, the leaders at the moment, and the game ended goalless. That was on a Sunday, and the following Thursday, 2nd of February, the second leg for that Copa del Rey round was played. It was a cold day and not many fans attended. However, the ones who did witnessed that night the best goals Polish striker Kowalczyk ever scored with the Green and White shirt. A goal that is still remembered.

Around the 51th minute, Menéndez delivered a cross from the left wing. Kowalczyk began a run behind Loren, but before reaching the baseline, he used his body to get the ball. He then stopped and looked at the goal. He saw goalkeeper Alberto waiting for a cross and, from outside the box, he lobbed a perfect ball to went in by the far post. A superb goal.

Villamarín exploded and this was, without a doubt, the best moment of the Polish who had signed for the team just before the start of the 1994-1995 season. A striker that had shined in the Barcelona 92 Olympics. Betis paid 20 million pesetas for his transfer.
Wojciech Kowalczyk (the only Polish who has ever played at Real Betis) made his debut -and scored- against Sporting de Gijon on Matchday 4 and that same season scored a crucial goal in the derby played at Heliópolis.

He scored 7 goals that year; 4 in the next one and 7 again in 1996-1997. He made the preseason in The Netherlands in Summer 2997, but it was widely-known that Luis Aragonés, the new manager, didn't want him. In fact, he didn't play a single match that season and was loaned in January 1998 to UD Las Palmas.

That Copa del Rey round against Real Sociedad was finished with a 3-1 victory in the second leg (Sabas and Cuéllar scored the other two goals) but it will always be remembered by that Kowalczyk's goal. The Polish's best night.