Barcelona's sextuple aspirations took a massive hit in Bilbao as the Catalans lost in stunning fashion to Athletic Bilbao. Led by the always dangerous Aritz Aduriz, who tormented Barça with a hat-trick this time around, Athletic made Barcelona look completely helpless. It was a forgettable night in which poor choices and big mistakes almost certainly cost Barcelona the Supercopa de España. Mikel San Jose fired the first torpedo in the sinking of FC Barcelona at San Mames.
|Shots on Target||4
In a surprise development, Luis Enrique, probably partially due to the fact that Barcelona played 120 minutes of grueling football on Tuesday, opted to make several changes in the lineup. Five new players entered the starting XI, while two, Javier Mascherano and Rafinha, started this match at a different position they played in Georgia. The midfield was completely new, with the aforementioned duo playing alongside of Sergi Roberto. Three changes were made in defense, where Marc Bartra, Thomas Vermaelen and Adriano Correia formed a back four with mainstay Dani Alves. In attack Pedro started with the M and S of the MSN trio.
Unlike in the European Super Cup, where the game started in dramatic fashion with some stunning early goals, in the Supercopa neither team was firing on all cylinders early on. Barcelona were clearly missing their usual midfield creators, something Athletic tried to turn in their favor with high pressure with which Barcelona struggled mightily. The midfield was unable to hold onto the ball and some poor passing from the back-line, most notably from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, led to some quick counterattacks from the hosts.
The most fierce Athletic onslaught came around the 10th minute, when Barcelona couldn't get the ball more then 30 yards away from ter Stegen's goal. The hosts were threatening from open play and from dead ball situations, but Barcelona somehow survived. Or so it appeared. The one time in that stretch that Barcelona cleared the ball all to way to Athletic goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz, in the 13th minute, ter Stegen went 25 yards out to unnecessarily head the return ball to midfield instead of waiting for it to reach his area where he would have more options. The header almost reached midfield, straight to the waiting San Jose, who immediately powered it back from 47.57 meters away, over the head of the young German and into the back of the net.
After conceding the goal, Barcelona slowly started to develop their game, but their decisions had to be extra quick as a result of Athletic's relentless pressing. It was far from an easy task for the Catalans, but on occasion they actually created a scoring chance. The first one, however, didn't come until the 27th minute when Alves sent a very useful cross into the area. Suarez tried to work his magic, and even drew Iraizoz way off his line, but at this point both were so deep that the Uruguayan had no shot on goal. Instead, Suarez lobbed the keeper to set up a goal for one of his teammates, but San Jose managed to clear the ball from danger.
As soon as Athletic increased the intensity of the press again, Barcelona started losing possession left, right and middle and could barely get into the opposing half. It was hardly a showing Barcelona would be proud of. But after laboring through the half, the Catalans would have one last shot at tying the game at one, after Pedro was brought down about 22 yards from goal. The kick was slightly from the left side, so it wasn't ideal for Lionel Messi, but against Sevilla the Argentine showed that matters little when he's in such form as he is in now. Messi came close to showing that again, curling a free kick over the wall, but the experienced Iraizoz read his intentions excellently, punching the ball out of play, but the referee whistled for halftime before Barcelona could take the resulting corner kick.
The second half kicked off with much better intensity, especially from Barcelona, and the Catalans quickly created the best two chances from open play they had all night. First one came from a defensive mistake by Aymeric Laporte, which left Pedro one-on-one with Iraizoz. Pedro powered a high shot on goal that beat the keeper, but it didn't beat the crossbar, with the ball bouncing off it to the groung about 1 yard from the goal-line. The very next minute Suarez found Messi who sent a first-time shot on target, but Iraizoz was there again to make a great save on the Argentine.
Hoping to turn the game around, Lucho then brought on Iniesta in place of Rafinha. Two minutes later Roberto made a mistake in midfield which 10 seconds later resulted in a goal by noted Barcelona killer, Aduriz. In typical fashion, Aduriz rose the highest and left ter Stegen with no chance. Now two goals down, a fire started burning under Lucho's hot seat and he brought in some reinforcements, as Rakitić replaced Roberto. But it was now too little too late from both the coach and the team as that Aduriz header marked the beginning of the end.
In the 62nd minute, a seemingly harmless cross from the right suddenly became dangerous as Alves terribly cleared the ball right in front of goal. The Barcelona center-back duo reacted poorly and Aduriz was there to pound the ball into the net. That was not all from Aduriz, who would complete the classic hat-trick five minutes later from a penalty kick after what can only be described as stupidity from Alves, who made the boneheaded play of committing a foul 15 yards away from the ball. With that goal, Aduriz became the first player since 2005 to complete the hat-trick against Barcelona and Barcelona conceded four goals in consecutive games for the first time since April 2001.
In the 68th minute Enrique completed his last personnel change, taking off Pedro, who was by now in big danger of picking up his second yellow card of the night, and replacing him with Sandro. With nothing to lose Barcelona pushed forward in search of a away goal that would restore a small glimmer of hope before the second leg, but Athletic's defensive line held it's ground and the hosts were able to deservedly celebrate the big win.
Barcelona will now have to hope for a miracle on Monday at the Camp Nou.
|Roll Call Info|
|Commenter list||Abhishek-Culé, Anders Thomassen, AraibKarim, Artemis11, BarcaBarca, Barcano1, Bingiboy, Cacho Cashman, Cajunb, Daxterflames, Delano Heerkens, DerkSensei, Eddie Pundell, FCB4Ever, FCB4Lyfe, Jerome Mizzi, KiwiBarca, LEastCoastBears, Lapulga, Messidependencia!!!, Navz, Neyssi, PG9, Piyush_, Ragnar_Lothbrok, Rajesh1101s, SUMYTH90, Shaco, SlightlyInsaneCule, Som-i-Serem, Steven Cordero, TanCuleKool, Timber Dave, Tokjee, Trifitology, Uncharted_Almo, ViscaViscaBarca, Z Ahmad, agar2515, askhanna, avyator, b33kay, barca4life1273, barcabrigade, carlos-, citizenleung, craig00000, culegun, davidvillathelegend, defeaning_silence, feeya7, footballfordoze, gorgton, govandamin, injohanveritas, kuntakintae, messism, milesbarca, msalmanz, nahmynameisantoine, semperty, syredeathtrooper, vireyda, wendell95|