Athletic Bilbao thrash Barcelona 4-0 in Spanish Supercopa first leg
A long-range screamer from Mikel San Jose and a second half hattrick by Artiz Aduriz earned Athletic Bilbao a comprehensive first leg lead over Barcelona. Playing at home, the Basque side gave the Catalans a taste of their own medicine with a flawless performance. The Spanish champions conceded 4 in the last game against Sevilla in the European Super Cup just days ago but they ran out 5-4 winners in extra time on that occasion but the grit and desire of the Bilbao team overwhelmed what can only be described as Luis Enrique’s experimental Barcelona side.
Barcelona went into the game having won 4 of the last 6 Spanish Super Cups against Athletic Bilbao who have competed for the trophy 2 times before but were unsuccessful on both occasions. The last time the two met while competing for the Spanish Supercopa was in 2009 when the Catalan club beat Los Leones 5-1 on aggregate.
It was Barcelona side missing a few familiar names that started the game. Leo Messi and Luis Suarez both started the game, but the midfield and defence had a makeshift look to it as Thomas Vermaelen and Adriano replaced Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba. In midfield, both Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic found themselves on the bench as Sergi Roberto and Rafinha found themselves in the starting line-up. Even among the front 3, Pedro started along with the familiar two.
The opening 10 minutes were all Barcelona with little or no attacking threat from Bilbao, but they kept pressing the Barcelona players making it hard for the Blaugrana to pass the ball around with any fluency and at about the 10 minute mark, cracks began to appear in Barcelona’s build-up. In the 13th minute, Ander Ter-Stegen found himself running out of the box to make a headed clearance away when he could have just waited for the ball to bounce into his arms.
It was a mistake the German keeper would go on to rue as his header went straight to San Jose in the centre circle, he controlled the ball with one touch, let it bounce and volleyed it into the net from an unbelievable distance. The raucous San Mamés stadium watched along with the players on the pitch in awe as the ball sailed into the net.
Still, at 1-0, Bilbao’s lead was barely a threat to Luis Enrique’s side, especially with over 75 minutes of football remaining in the game and a leg at the Nou Camp awaiting the tie. The problem for Barcelona was that they had issues all over the pitch. The Basque side pulled off a masterpiece in defence as they marked both Lionel messi and Luis Suarez out of the game, often forcing Pedro to go on his own against 3 or 4 players with little or no support from midfield or the wings.
The Bilbao keeper Iraizoz was on song whenever he was required to make a save and Aymeric Laporte marshalled the team at the back to perfection as was required by the side if they were to pull off the victory they did against an otherwise rampant Barcelona side.
Barcelona found it difficult to penetrate the home side’s resolute wall of defence and to add to their worries, the Bilbao attack led by Benat, Eraso and Aduriz looked dangerous against a defence that looked like it would crumble if a gust of wind blew by. The away side had one chance as Pedro was brought down in Messi’s freekick range. Having scored two in the previous game, the Argentine would not need another invitation to step up, but as the little magician recorded Barcelona’s lone shot on target in the first half, Iraizoz was there to palm it away.
The second half was when Bilbao grew in stature and Barcelona shrunk, Enrique was left making changes to his team while the home side ran away with the tie.
Just as Rafinha was replaced by Andres Iniesta in the 53rd minute, Messi got away a shot that stung Iraizoz’s palms and as Bilbao cleared the ball, even though the clearance fell to a Barca player, they failed to get it out of their own half and Bilbao won possession high up the pitch. Sabin ran down the left and sent in a cross that found Aduriz who buried his header out of Ter-Stegen’s reach.
At 2-0 the score was definitely one that Athletic Bilbao would gladly take to the Nou Camp and defend, but the misery was not over for the Blaugrana as Aduriz himself would go on to score 2 more. The first of those coming from Barcelona’s defence’s failure to deal with a cross, the ball fell to Aduriz in the box and he wasn’t going to let the chance slip. On the 62-minute mark, Bilbao led 3-0.
Only 4 minutes later, the 34-year-old would claim the match ball from the penalty spot. Dani Alves dragged his man to the ground while marking from a corner, the referee had a good view of the incident and pointed to the spot with no hesitation. It spelt doom for Barcelona who would struggle in vain till the end of the game to get something out of the first leg, despite bringing on Rakitic to replace Sergi Roberto and Sandro Ramirez came on late for Pedro.
The Catalan side go into the second leg at home with little hope of winning the Spanish Supercopa but you still wouldn’t rule out Luis Enrique’s team. It will be a game that Barcelona will definitely chase confidently playing at home, though, Bilbao is a team full of determined individuals who are stronger as a team and will strive to keep the Barcelona attack from spoiling the party. The Champions League winners begin their La Liga campaign at San Mamés as well playing the same opponents. They will hope for a different result on that day but the task will be no less difficult.
Any hopes the Barcelona players or management were harbouring of a sextuple have been dashed, but there is a slim chance for Luis Enrique’s men, but they will need a miracle. Fortunately, this Barcelona side has a few miracle workers in store.
Bilbao, on the other hand, will have the difficult task of staying focussed having earned a fully deserved 4 goal advantage in the tie. Any complacency in their game and Barcelona will be waiting to tear them apart. They will chase European qualification along with the domestic campaign so the next few games for them will be crucial but this emphatic win gives them the right platform to build on.