Athletic Bilbao 1-0 Barcelona: 3 Reasons Why the Blaugrana lost the fixture | Copa del Rey 2019-20
A late goal by Inaki Willians was enough to give Athletic Bilbao the win against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey and knock the Catalans out of the competition, ending their run of six consecutive final appearances.
The hosts started as the brighter of the two sides and rightly saw a goal by Inaki Williams disallowed for offside in the first half, with Barcelona struggling to get a hold of the game and were issued four yellow cards as frustration grew within the Blaugrana ranks.
They grew into the ascendancy upon resumption of hostilities in the second half but struggled to make their dominance count and were made to pay when Inaki Williams deftly headed a pin-point delivery by Ibai Gomez in the third minute of injury time.
Given their recent record in the tournament and difference in quality between both sides, it was expected that Barcelona would triumph in this fixture but that proved to not be the case and here, we shall be highlighting three reasons why the Catalans fell to defeat at the San Maes Stadium.
#3 They failed to make their dominance count
On the overall balance of play in this clash, Barcelona were the better of the two sides and having started the game on the backfoot, the Blaugrana slowly grew into the game and gained a stronghold in the second half.
In total, Barcelona fashioned 11 shots, with five of those being on target, while they also had 69% possession and completed 86% of their 673 attempted passes.
By contrast, Athletic Bilbao managed just seven shots in the game, with their only effort on target ending in the back of the net and this clinicality in front of goal proved invaluable in the hosts' efforts at qualifying for the last four of the Copa del Rey.
For all of their dominance and chances that Barcelona created, they were unable to make it count and their profligacy and indecisiveness played a major role in seeing them fall to defeat against Athletic Bilbao.
#2 Unai Simon was in inspired form
While Barcelona did not do enough in front of goal to justify their dominance, the Catalans still managed to fashion enough worthy chances but they found an insurmountable obstacle in the person of Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simon.
The 22-year-old was the beneficiary of Kepa's departure to Chelsea as well as an injury to Iago Herrerin and having started last season as backup goalie, he impressed significantly in his rare starts to warrant first choice spot this term.
His goal has been breached on just 17 occasions this season (the third-best in the league after Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid) and he kept up his good form with another fine display against Barcelona.
Simon made a total of five saves in the clash, with the impressive of those coming when he used his feet to keep out both Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi in the second half.
The importance of the latter save was emphasized by the fact that just few minutes after denying the Barcelona skipper, Inaki Williams rose highest to send Bilbao through to the last eight.
With the world's most expensive goalkeeper seeing questions asked of him in London, it would not come as a surprise if Kepa loses his spot in the national team to his replacement at his former club and if Unai Simon can keep this form up, he could be in with an outside chance of making Spain's squad for Euro 2020.
#1 Gerard Pique's injury
Inaki Williams was nothing more than a mere spectator for most of the match and apart from his ruled out goal in the first half, the 25-year-old struggled to make any impact and was forced to feed on scraps until his last-gasp winner.
A lot of this was down to the performance of center-back Gerard Pique, with the former Spanish international not giving him breathing space and ensuring he did not get another sniff of the Barcelona goal.
The two were engaged in a running battle for most of the night and it was at the end of another coming together that saw Pique fall to the ground in a heap.
As it happened, the 33-year-old was unable to continue the game and he was promptly replaced by French international Samuel Umtiti for the last 10 minutes of the clash.
While taking nothing away from the former Lyon man, he lacks the physical presence that Pique offers and that proved to be the case, as Williams beat Lenglet in the air to convert the cross by Ibai which might not have been the case had Pique been the one marking him.
Published 07 Feb 2020, 05:55 IST