Barcelona has been eliminated from this season's Copa Del Rey tournament after suffering a 3-2 defeat to Athletic Bilbao at San Mames yesterday. Following that setback, manager Xavi Hernandez has urged the team to keep believing in the project.
Although Barcelona dominated possession, Athletic Bilbao were the more dangerous side during the encounter, threatening the Blaugrana with dangerous attacking moves while keeping a compact defensive line. Xavi couldn't help but praise the Basque outfit for their brave approach to the game.
The tactician said post-match in comments carried by Marca:
"I think Athletic played a great game."
"It was difficult for us to progress. They defended very well, with enormous intensity."
"They were superior in duels. They were very strong to me. It was difficult for us. Pedri’s goal gave us wings for extra time, but then came the fateful penalty."
That defeat means Barcelona have now been knocked out of two competitions within the last eight days. Before losing 3-2 to Bilbao yesterday, the Catalan giants fell to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup semifinals last week, albeit with the same scoreline.
As it stands, Xavi's men have only La Liga and the Europa League left to fight for this season and the tactician has urged his team to focus on the two competitions.
"We tried, but things didn’t work out for us. But we have no choice but to continue believing in this project. We have to believe in La Liga and the Europa League. I don’t know any other way to do the job."
Barcelona versus Athletic Bilbao: how the game unfolded
It was indeed an intense and fascinating encounter between the two sides at the San Mames Stadium on Thursday. Barcelona started the game sluggishly and were made to pay for it as Athletic Bilbao drew first blood via an Iker Munian strike just two minutes after kick-off.
Recent signing Ferran Torres leveled the score with his first goal for the Catalan giants in the 20th minute, ensuring both teams started the second half on par. Inigo Martinez thought he had won it for Bilbao when he struck in the 86th minute but Pedri had a different idea.
The Spaniard scored deep in injury time to send the game into extra time. Unfortunately, Barcelona conceded a penalty-kick as Jordi Alba handled the ball in the box. Iker Munian stepped up and scored the winning goal for Bilbao from the spot and sent the Blaugrana crashing out.