In Barcelona's second consecutive title game the Catalan giants emerged victorious and claimed the Copa Catalunya trophy against their city rivals, Espanyol. After a goalless 90 minutes the game was decided in the penalty shootout where goals from Patric, Wilfrid Kaptoum and Munil El Haddadi combined with three saves by Adrian Ortola were enough for Barcelona to lift the trophy.
Coach Eusebio Sacristan didn't need much time to disappoint Barça fans as as soon as the starting line-up was announced a collective sigh of disappointment was heard from all sides. The club's most exciting prospects, Munil, Adama Traore, Sergi Samper, Alex Grimaldo and Kaptoum, among others, all started on the bench.
With all that talent missing from the lineup it came as little surprise that Barcelona struggled to create much. Though Espanyol struggled to create chances as well, but in the 8th minute a sequence in which Ortola made not one, not even two but three terrible passes began that all led to easy chances for Espanyol, but Barcelona's city rivals were unable to make the young goalkeeper pay.
Barcelona's first decent look on goal didn't come until the 18th minute when Frank Bagnack was able to get on the receiving end of a corner kick, but couldn't get a clean shot off. For the next five minutes it was all Espanyol who was able to threaten to score the opener from numerous set pieces, but the Barcelona defense was excellent in the air game.
Barcelona continued to struggle to control the ball which made chance creation nearly impossible. But in the 22nd minute a moment of brilliance from Denis Suarez created Barcelona's best chance of the match so far. The former Manchester City youngster weaved his way through the left side and got in a good position to take a shot on goal, but his attempt was excellently saved by the Espanyol goalkeeper.
That Barça chance proved to be only an anomaly as Espanyol quickly went back on the offensive and in four minutes created two very good chances to draw first blood. The first one was excellently saved by Ortola while on the second, Espanyol's best chance of the game, Sylla missed the net with a header from six yards out.
In the 33rd minute Eusebio realized that his starting line-up was a mistake and made three substitutions in order to take control of the game. David Babunski, Javier Espinosa and Dani Nieto were replaced by Adama, Munir and Kaptoum. And the substitutions clearly changed the flow of the game. Espanyol could no longer control the ball for long periods of time and Barcelona's passing became crisper as a result of which they became more dangerous in attack. In the dying minutes of the half Barcelona had two shots on goal but both were excellently saved by Ruiz. The save on the second chance proved to be the last play of the half as the referee whistle for halftime.
With the halftime talk out of the way and Samper being brought on, Barcelona came storming out of the gates and after just two minutes fired the first shot. Sandro was played through on goal, but his attempt went wide of the near post. But Espanyol quickly tightened their ranks which made it very difficult for Barcelona to find a way through on goal.
Barcelona controlled the ball with relative ease in the second half, but couldn't find a way through the organized defensive line. With so many players now focused on the attack Barcelona became vulnerable to the counter attack. Espanyol launched two promising attacks around the 65 minute mark, the second of which forced Ortola to make a very strong save.
Four minutes later Eusebio completed another substitution, replacing Sandro with Grimaldo. Another four minutes later Suarez forced the Espanyol goalkeeper into another, his fifth, save of the game with a well placed shot from 25-yards out. The pace of the game dropped significantly in the last 15 minutes of the game with Espanyol seemingly content at sitting back, forcing Barcelona to pass around the danger area. Three minutes before the final whistle Eusebio freshened up the defensive ranks, swapping Roger Riera for Sergi Gomez.
The last minute of the game brought back some excitement that was missing in the second part of the second half. First some shenanigans broke out after an Espanyol foul, but calmer heads quickly prevailed. From that foul Grimaldo sent a perfect ball in front of the goal where Munir headed the ball on target, but Ruiz made a brilliant reflex save to force a penalty shootout as there would be no extra time in a tie game.
The penalty shootout was dominated by the goalkeepers as after four shots apiece the score was tied at two, with Ortola making two saves while Ruiz saved one (Suarez) and watched another sail over the crossbar (Grimaldo). The deciding, fifth round was up and Ortola immediately made it advantage Barcelona by saving Morales' attempt. The UEFA Youth League hero, Munir, was up for Barcelona and the young man calmly put the shot out of the reach of the goalkeeper to win the title for Barcelona.
It was the final act of the 2013-14 season for Barcelona who will be going into next season on a winning note. Until then plenty of football will be played so stay tuned.
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