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Athletic deliver knockout blow that Barcelona didn’t deserve

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Great away performance

Athletic Bilbao v FC Barcelona - Copa del Rey: Quarter Final Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Losing in cup competitions is a fact of life, but in the Copa del Rey over the last few seasons, any losses for Barca in a two-legged tie have always been overturned.

It’s not a feeling we’ve been used to.

Frankly, after what was a fantastic away performance in San Mames, we didn’t deserve to in the new one-legged format.

This was as good as the blaugranes have been this season, and not one cule can honestly look at that 90+ minutes and suggest that our away hoodoo has struck again.

Too many yellow cards were regrettable, but some showed a steely side to the players that’s often sorely missed, whilst others were a pathetic attempt from the referee to make the game all about him.

On another night, the visitors would’ve waltzed into the semi-final.

Credit to young Unai Simon, a fantastic keeper who repelled everything that was thrown at him. Even when beaten, Athletic had the rub of the green with two goal-line clearances.

Barca’s play was sharp in the main, the passing was crisp, in short Los Leones were played off of the park.

The disappointment of losing in injury time can’t be understated, particularly as its the second time in succession that it’s happened against Athletic.

Perhaps if there’s one criticism, it’s our defences inability to deal with high balls into the box effectively, but personally, I don’t even think that needs to come into the conversation.

Given how much of a tumultuous week it had been even before kick-off, to come out and play as well as they did is a magnificent effort from all concerned.

Sometimes it’s just not your night.

Looking at things in a medium to longer term light, if this is what we can expect under Quique Setien, then I’m all in.

The football that cules have been crying out for is back. We are expansive, quick to press, confident in possession... all of this in 25 days or so and under incredibly trying circumstances for a new manager.

Perhaps this campaign might well have to be considered a write off in the end, as most would agree that this was Barca’s easiest route to silverware, particularly after Real Madrid had been dumped out of the competition a couple of hours before.

But short-term pain for long term gain will be worth it if Thursday night’s fare is a template for what’s to come.