It was a miserable night for Barcelona as they were dumped out of the Copa del Rey at a rowdy San Mames. The Bilbao arena was a cauldron of noise as Athletic Club took the extra-time victory in the pouring rain. It was a classic cup tie in many ways. It was passionate and physical, with flashes of class and moments of drama. But it was not to be Barcelona’s night.
Two sublime top-draw curling finishes separated the teams in the first half. The first, early, from Iker Muniain put the Basque Country team ahead and then Ferran Torres drew the Catalans level. In the second period, Athletic Club bundled home from a deep cross. It was a goal typical of Marcelino’s style and the crowd had the quarter-finals in-sight. However, La Blaugrana were not finished and the 38-year-old Dani Alves leaped to bicycle kick a clearance straight into Pedri’s path. Pedri blasted home to send it for extra time. A dubious VAR decision eventually gave Athletic Club the win, Muniain burying from the spot after Jordi Alba was alleged to have handled in the box.
Overall, a pretty disastrous result in a competition which could have been a bright light in a tough season for Xavi’s Barcelona side. See how I rated the individual Barca performances below.
Player ratings from a disastrous loss for Xavi’s Barcelona side
7 Ter Stegen – A great fingertip save from Nico Williams in the 31st minute which was almost certainly heading into the bottom corner. The German then made a decent second-half save from Nico’s brother, Inaki. However, his distribution was poor at times. To his credit, he couldn’t do anything about any of the goals.
6 Dani Alves – Slightly slow in closing down Muniain on the goal but it was a stunning finish. Generally beaten by Munian at the start of the game but worked his socks off getting forward and ended up putting in a monumental shift. His incredible bicycle kick assist for Pedri’s goal could have been a highlight of the season if Blaugrana had gone on to win it on the night.
7 Ronald Araujo – Dealt well with the pace of the Williams brothers throughout. Cameo upfront at the end of the 90 regular time in an effort to get the equalizer. Did well to get his studs on the Nico Williams chance in the 31st minute to give Ter Stegen a chance to save.
7 Gerard Pique – A few classy cross-field passes as usual. Put his body on the line to get to a corner when two Bilbao players were going for it, Pique got absolutely hammered by both. Dived in front of the ball to make a goal-saving block about two minutes later! Played like a leader, or gladiator maybe more appropriately. Look tired after the 90 was up. He was fairly fortunate not to give away a penalty in extra time as Inaki Williams beat him to the ball but VAR decided not to give Athletic Club a second penalty.
3 Jordi Alba – Not his best night. Beaten time and time again by young Nico Williams, who skipped past him to create Athletic Club’s initial goal. Slipped over taking a free-kick in the second half which summed up his evening. Everything he tried offensively came to nothing. The penalty given against him was unfair.
7 Sergio Busquets – Instigated passing possession from in front of the back four and got forward as part of the move for the Torres goal. Dropped in to create a back three and allow the full-backs to go forward. So integral to the system. Looked frustrated towards the end of the night.
6 Gavi – Scrappy when needed. Not much to add. Was taken off in the 60th minute.
7 Pedri – One of my favorite players to watch in world football but couldn’t really get into the game in the first half. An amazing bit of skill to get out of a tight situation with two Athletic Club midfielders on either side of him was one of the highlights in the first period. He is the spark in this current Barca team. Great finish for the dramatic equalizer. Went off with an injury in extra time, hopefully, nothing serious.
8 Ferran Torres – Incredible strike. Created a little bit of room and curled a sublime finish into the top corner, the only place the goalie couldn’t have got it. He was a touch of class with the ball. He will produce much-needed quality for the rest of the season.
6 Ez Abde – Doesn’t look out of place in the Barca side. Was aggressive going forward when he had the ball. Taken off at halftime.
4 Ferran Jutgla – A few fruitless runs to create space for others. Not a good first half but didn’t get the service so can’t blame him.
6 Nico – Came on at halftime for Jutgla. Looked comfortable in his new number 14 shirt, if a little cautious at the start. Grew into the game and looked fairly strong.
7 Ansu Fati – Came on at the hour mark. Immediately gave the side a lift. Attacked with the ball and was involved in dangerous moves going forward. Pulled up with a hamstring injury, confirmed by FC Barcelona today.
6 Frenkie de Jong – Frenkie also entered on the hour mark. He was fairly average. Lively but gave the ball away needlessly a couple of times. He was booked for an irritated elbow.