Never had Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s absence been brought into sharper focus than on Thursday night in Jeddah.
Although one can feel a touch of sorrow for Neto, the reserve keeper really needed to bring his ‘A’ game against Atleti. However, in the big moments, he was found wanting every time.
Less than 20 seconds into the second half, he should have dealt with Koke’s shot much better, though the defence also need to take a long hard look at themselves too.
Neto is nowhere near Ter Stegen. Cillessen would have won Barcelona this match, ridiculous swap that was.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) January 9, 2020
Two questionable VAR calls denied Barca what would’ve been a match-winning position, and fate would decree that the Rojiblancos would come on strong in the latter stages.
Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique had completely run out of steam by then, but an inexplicable penalty giveaway and then making a complete hash of an easy save ensured that Neto would write the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Defensively, Barcelona must be the worst side in Europe. The third goal caused after a loose touch by Griezmann, De Jong diving in when he shouldn't, Pique not diving in when he should, Rakitic diving in when he should hold his ground, and Neto...smh. Bunch of clowns— Owuraku Ampofo (@_owurakuampofo) January 9, 2020
Compare his performance to that of opposite number Jan Oblak.
Atleti’s No.1 was his usual reliable self and certainly can’t be blamed for either goal. Indeed, his save from Luis Suarez’s powerful header was world class and deserved better than seeing Antoine Griezmann head home from his rebound.
Social media is already awash with supporters blaming Ernesto Valverde for the defeat and not bringing on his substitutes sooner, but they were clearly watching a different game.
Valverde's Game management is too poor. The only trophy I see us winning this season is the League, because we have camp nou and we have Messi. But any tournament that requires us to play top teams away from home let's just 4get it.— ❤️Ultimate Kombo (@ultimate_kombo) January 9, 2020
Despite going behind, Barca were far superior to Atleti until their second goal went in, and trying to pin this defeat on the manager speaks of those who are full of hot air and really don’t have much of a clue about football.
Lionel Messi added a record-breaking 14th goal in Spanish Super Cup history, and it would’ve been a mesmeric 15th were it not for VAR’s (correct) intervention.
In the grand scheme of things that goal will mean little to the Argentinian and Barca, just like his goal in last season’s Copa del Rey final.
#MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI! #MESSI!— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 9, 2020
It was, however, some light amongst the gloom. We all take Leo far too much for granted, but name me one other player who can carve out chances from such tight situations, let alone score from them.
Focus now turns to Granada and Valencia, two must-win La Liga games for the Blaugranes. There is no room for error in the domestic competition now, and if Barca can recapture their form from the first 80 minutes of this match, they’ll be in with a shout of wins in both games.
That’s assuming Neto brushes up on his one on ones in the meantime...