Athletic Bilbao has taken a giant step to win the Spanish Supercup after completely obliterating Barcelona at San Mamés to take the first leg of the tie. In a night full of individual mistakes, the Catalan giants looked lost and conceded four goals for the second straight game, and the dream of winning six titles in 2015 is definitely in jeopardy.
It's a game at San Mamés, so it could not have been any different: full-court press from the hosts. Athletic pressed high up the pitch from the start, covering every dangerous passing lane and forcing Barça to long balls over the top to the front three. That strategy gave the ball to Bilbao plenty of times, but because of a good start by the Blaugrana defense, no true chance was created.
Everything seemed fine and Barça looked to be surviving the early onslaught nicely. Until goalkeeper Ter Stegen acted as a sweeper-keeper and headed a ball out of trouble; no Barça player got to it, and midfielder San José scored a wonderful goal from the midfield circle, catching Stegen out of the posts. A spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime strike from a defender gave Los Leones a narrow lead.
Barça improved once Bilbao dropped back to defend closer to its own box, but the Blaugranes did not have a good shot on goal until the last kick of the half, when Lionel Messi played a beautiful free-kick on the top corner, but goalkeeper Iraizoz got to it in time to end an entertaining 45 minutes.
When Pedro hit the post only three minutes after the interval, it looked like the second half was going to be totally different. Barça played with much better pace, sharper passing and more dangerous attacking. It was only a dream.
A succession of awful individual mistakes led to what became a nightmare for the Catalans. Sergi Roberto gave the ball away, Sabin beat Dani Alves one-on-one and played a perfect cross to Aritz Aduriz, who made it 2-0. Shortly after, Adriano couldn't control a ball, Alves couldn't clear a cross, and the ball came again to Aduriz for the third. A few minutes later, Alves committed one of the dumbest penalties ever, and Aduriz completed his hat-trick with ease.
For the remainder of the game, Los Leones were more than satisfied to drop back and crowd the box to avoid any away goals. The uninspired Blaugrana bunch was not able to put together one good string of passes and create a dangerous scoring chance. Coach Valverde made some defensive substitutions towards the end to preserve the lead, as he should, and now the Basque side has two hands in the trophy, and it would take a miracle to make them lose it. As of right now, the dream of a sextuple seems very unlikely for the Blaugrana.
Athletic Club: Iraizoz; De Marcos, Etxeita, Laporte, Balenziaga; San José, Beñat; Susaeta (Bóveda), Eraso (Gurpegi), Sabin (Lekue); Aduriz
Goals: San José (14'), Aduriz (53', 62', 68')
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Alves, Bartra, Vermaelen, Adriano; Mascherano, Roberto (Rakitic), Rafinha (Iniesta); Messi, Suárez, Pedro (Sandro)