Barcelona survived a red card and won a difficult, intense final over Sevilla by the score of 2-0 to take home the Copa del Rey title. While Lionel Messi's two assists, Jordi Alba's impeccable finish, and Andres Iniesta's dribbling and passing will rightly take home many plaudits, it was Gerard Pique who truly was the matn of the match.
Barcelona were down a man for about 90 of the 120+ minutes played. For 55 of those, they played with a man less than Sevilla, who had a player sent off in the 91st. The team looked short of inspiration and composure for long stretches of the game, and Sevilla looked quite likely to get a goal and seal the match.
Enter Pique. He was everywhere at the back, making inch-perfect tackles in the box, winning every aerial challenge, and making important blocks. He got some helped from an inspired Sergio Busquets, a secure Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, and improbably perhaps, a very steady Jeremy Mathieu off the bench. But for certain moments Pique had to be a one-man wall.
The defender led the team with 5 aerial duels won, 8 clearances, and 3 blocked shots. One particular block comes to mind, in which he nudged the ball off target and onto the post. It was worth a goal, and just when the Blaugrana needed it most.
He also was third on the team with 50 passes completed and second on the team with two shots, both headers. One was off target, and the other was on target, and it is perhaps cruel that he couldn't cap off an amazing night with a goal.
Of course, it was a game in which everyone chipped in. Messi is sure to steal the headlines, but Iniesta and Busquets were at their very classiest. Ter Stegen was a rock and made one notable save from an Ever Banega free kick. Alba was a constant presence and scored a brilliant goal. Neymar kept making runs and troubled Sevilla all the way, even causing the first red card, and getting the second goal.
Dani Alves did his part and almost scored a goal from a long range drive. Rafinha had an encouraging performance from the bench. Rakitic was solid when he was on. Mathieu hardly put a foot wrong and made one hugely important block with his head. Even Luis Suarez, who had to be removed due to an injury 55 minutes in, showed fight. Heck, even Javier Mascherano's early red card in retrospect worked out - he held off Kevin Gameiro and did not allow a goal or a penalty.
There are more than enough plaudits to go around, but for me, the key man was still that smiling tall man at the back. He'll enjoy this one.