Azeem Siddiqui runs the rule over Barca’s Copa del Rey final win over Athletic Bilbao on a historic night in Spanish football
Barcelona lifted their 27th Copa del Rey title after defeating Athletic Bilbao 3-1 at the Camp Nou on Saturday evening.
A brace from Argentine maestro Lionel Messi on either side of half-time a strike from Neymar was enough to give the Catalans the win and William’s goal in the second half proved to be scant consolation for the Basques.
Here, we look at five talking points from the historic win in Catalonia.
Messi the king after superb solo goal
We often heard that there are players who seem to be from another planet, but there is only one player who can be really defined as that. After all, he does not seem to be a normal human being and things that he does makes you feel that he is an “alien” amongst the rest. Barcelona was looking to break the shackles from early on, but Bilbao was not ready to give.
Barcelona were looking to break the shackles from early on, but Bilbao was not ready to give in. But as they say, cometh the hour, cometh the man. Messi stood up on one of the biggest occasions in Spanish football, and came up with brilliance that, once again, showed that Messi is more than just a class act.
At the time, he was surrounded by three defenders who were not giving him the space, but he somehow managed to get that little space between the three, and then dodged another on-rushing defender in the box, and his finesse beat Iago Herrerin at the near post.
It was not just about the goal though. He has continually proved his brilliance throughout the match, in which he fought his way through and nearly provided an assist to Suarez in the center, following it up by a clipped ball pass to Neymar, which was later declared offside.
It was his sheer brilliance that sets up what was a comfortable for the Catalans, where they end up completing the much expected domestic double this season.
Here is another look to it.
Barcelona – The Real Force Again
It was not long ago, when Barcelona was the best in the world because of their “tiki–taka” football. But It was also not long ago, when Barcelona seemed absolutely clueless at the beginning of the season, and there were reports that Luis Enrique, who is now staring at the prospect of an unprecedented “treble”, was about to leave the club amid reports of a rift between him and Messi.
However, things changed and Barcelona are back to their best. Their style is changed, but they are far more effective than they ever were. They are defensively more solid, play on the counter on the basis of the speed and skills of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, can hold the ball with the players like Iniesta, Rakitic in the middle, to slow down the pace, and can use the wing to enhance their game play.
In short, under Luis Enrique, Barcelona is showing the kind of football that looks attractive to the eye, and yet effective on the field of play. Last night, Barcelona kept 73% possession compared to 27% of Bilbao, had 12 shots compared to Bilbao 8, had 7 on target which was more than double of what Bilbao managed (3). Their performance last night sent a stern signal to Juventus.
Neymar: A brilliant but controversial figure
It was all about Messi last night, but Neymar’s performance was more than just a ‘assist Messi’ role. He was very fluent for most the game and not only scored a goal but provided an assist. He did, however, miss clear-cut chances which could have made for a far more dominant score line for Bilbao.
At the end of the match, with a few minutes to go and with Barcelona would have virtually sealed the title, Neymar flicked the ball over Unai Bustinza, over which Athletico players reacted angrily and things got a little heated up at the end. Neymar later said that he won’t change his style as this is the way he played over his career, but Barcelona coach had some words for Neymar, in which he said: “In Spain this is looked on very badly. If I was an Athletic player I would have reacted the
“In Spain this is looked on very badly. If I was an Athletic player I would have reacted the same, or even worse,”said Luis Enrique.
“In Brazil this is normal, so we have to understand the context. He didn’t do it to humiliate his opponent, it is difficult to explain it when someone is losing, but we will try to control it with time.”
Bilbao Coach also asked to Neymar to show some respect to the opponents as this kind of behavior is not accepted in Spain, saying:
“It is not even looked upon well by his own fans. When the game is won we are very well aware to maintain certain respect for the opponent. There are things that he will learn with time.”
Politics in football
Camp Nou, the home of Barcelona, was full of supporters from both sides. Indeed, not only the Catalans, but also the Basques, had sought independence. And so, when the pre-match anthems were played, it was met with chants of “Independicia”, the cacophony so loud that it, in fact, drained out the anthem itself. If anything, the heads of RFEF, after that incident, probably regretted staging the final in Catalonia…
Bright future for Iago
Before the match, it was expected that Bilbao will have a mountain to climb to produce any sort of performance against the Spanish giants, and that their goalkeeper would have to stand up and perform beyond his usual capacity. Bilbao could only produce the latter one, as they never really challenged the Catalan giants as a team. However, their Goalkeeper, Iago Herrerin tried to keep Bilbao in the game for as long as possible, and it was only because of him that Bilbao suffered a more respectable defeat in the Spanish Cup final. Iago made sure that the game was not done and dusted by the half time, with some amazing saves against the Barcelona magical trio, but his efforts went in vain after the sheer brilliance by Lionel Messi.
The article originally published on Playingfor90.com