Barca close in on treble after beating Bilbao in cup final

Saturday 30th May , 2015 11:16 pm
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao  (Image credit: : Manu Fernandez/AP)
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao (Image credit: : Manu Fernandez/AP)

Stage two of the treble is complete as Barcelona defeated Athetic Bilbao 3-1 on Saturday to triumph in the 2015 Copa del Rey final.

The designated hosts were reportedly given two-thirds of the ticket allocation for the match, which made for a significant Athletic presence at Camp Nou.

Nonetheless, the Catalans moved onto eyeing up a domestic double with their 27th Copa, having been crowned La Liga champions a week earlier, while Athletic hoped to end a 31-year wait for a major trophy.

Both teams had faced each other in the Copa final on nine previous occasions, with Barca winning five and Athletic four. The last came in 2011-12 – a 3-0 victory for the Catalans.

The first half was stocked with chances, most of which fell to Neymar, although the Brazilian should have seen his half-volleyed finish at Herrerin’s far post allowed to stand.

But like many times this season, Lionel Messi rose to the plate in his side’s hour of need yet again with one of the great cup-final goals as he weaved past three Athletic shirts down the right, wrongfooted Laporte and curled a deft strike into the bottom-right corner of the goalkeeper’s net.

Not long after, Barca doubled their advantage thanks to Neymar, who was the beneficiary of a superbly-synchronised team goal. Messi and Rakitic played a quick-fire one-two, before the Croat fed a slide-rule pass to Luis Suarez. The attacker then squared the ball for the No 11 to tap home.

The goal also made history as the MSN became the highest-scoring attacking trio in Spanish football history, pipping Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema’s haul of 118 three years ago.

However, Athletic came agonisingly close to pulling one back on the cusp of half-time as Inaki Williams fired a stunning, first-time volley onto the crossbar, having been picked out by Iraola on the right.

Barca’s grip on the final continued into the restart as they dominated possession and hardly gave Athletic a glimpse of their goal.

Unsurprisingly, they scored another with 15 minutes remaining, Messi toepoking a low cross beyond Herrerin, who also performed heroics to keep out free kicks from the Argentine and substitute Xavi Hernandez.

Los Leones did pull one back moments later through Williams, by far his side’s best player on the night, with a glancing header, but it proved too little too late as Barca prepared for next week’s Champions League final against Juventus in style.

The game also threatened to end on a sour note as Athletic were incensed by what they perceived as showboating from Neymar to flick the ball over Unai Bustinza, but referee Carlos Velasco Carballo ensured tempers settled down.

Athletic Bilbao 1-3 Barcelona

Williams 79 (AB) Messi 20, 74, Neymar 36 (B)

Athletic Bilbao: Herrerin; Bustinza, Etxeita, Laporte, Balenziaga; San Jose, Benat (Ibai 75); Iraola (Susaeta 58), Rico (Iturraspe 74), Williams; Aduriz

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba (Mathieu 77); Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta (Xavi 56); Messi, Suarez (Pedro 78), Neymar

Referee: Velasco Carballo




Source: Football Espana