The memories of that 8-2 thrashing against Bayern Munich still haunts Marc Andre ter Stegen and this season he has been pretty shaky with his goalkeeping, but the German goalkeeper is someone who loves to move on and prove his worth. He has his fair amount of disastrous memories but in between those nightmares and comical shows, there lie the brilliant displays, which, more often, go unnoticed.

In the semifinal of the Super Copa de Espana, Ter Stegen showed his bravery and helped Barcelona to overcome the Real Sociedad threat.

Ter Stegen made a fine one-on-one save to deny Alexander Isak as La Real looked by far the more threatening in the early exchanges.

In the first half, Barca came close through Martin Braithwaite, while Ousmane Dembele was effective on the right. The growing pressure by Barca told six minutes before half-time – Antoine Griezmann clipping a cross towards De Jong, who reacted well to steer a header past Alex Remiro.

But De Jong handed Sociedad an equalizer 51 minutes – his handball allowing Oyarzabal to send Ter Stegen the wrong way from the spot.

Both the teams came close to score as the game became a basketball match – La Real threatening on the breakthrough Isak and both Pedri and Griezmann coming close with powerful efforts.

The game went to extra-time.

Ter Stegen made a spectacular one-handed save to keep out Joseba Zaldua’s rocket before Dembele sent a shot straight at Remiro. Griezmann saw a volley smothered and Barca were very nearly hit on the break, Ter Stegen doing enough to deny Oyarzabal after the forward had failed to connect properly with Januzaj’s cross.

Januzaj himself had a shot just prodded past the left-hand post after a strong run and then came closest of all to a winner, clattering the post with a wicked free-kick as Ter Stegen looked to get a fingertip to the ball.

The match was decided by penalties and Ter Stegen was the ultimate hero.

De Jong hit the post with Barca’s first penalty, but Ter Stegen saved from Jon Bautista and Oyarzabal and Willian Jose hit the post after Dembele had scored.

Griezmann skied his effort after Miralem Pjanic and Mikel Merino each scored, but although Januzaj also converted, Riqui Puig showed nerves and took Barcelona in the finals, who were playing without Lionel Messi.

“I wasn’t down to take one but we needed one more taker and I was the first to step forward. I was desperate to take it and score my first goal for the club,” said Puig.

“I have never lost my smile. I am a happy kid. Even if I am not playing, I have my family, my health. If Ronald gives me minutes, I will try and take my chance; if not, keep working hard. I am never going to throw in the towel,” added Puig.

“I had four names on my sheet,” Ronald Koeman said after the game. “I asked who wanted to take the fifth and Riqui said ‘I will’.

“He did very well.”

Regarding De Jong, Koeman said, “I’ve said a lot that the midfielders have to arrive in the box. He’s on the right track.”

“It was a great game and we both played with intensity. Everyone had chances and we came up against a great team.”

“We went through on penalties, but we suffered at the beginning with their high press.”

“After 15 or 20 minutes we were okay.”

Sergio Busquets was impeccable in midfield and Ronald Araujo outstanding at center-back.

Ter Stegen was the real hero, though, making six excellent saves and keeping out two penalties in the shoot-out. He also completed 33 passes, more than all but five of Sociedad’s starting line-up.

His actions to keep Barca in the game were the kind of things that only the very best goalkeepers in the world can do. And that was for 90 minutes plus extra-time and in a gripping penalty shootout.

It was the first time since the 1998 Copa del Rey Final that a competitive Barça game has been decided on penalties, a game that was against Mallorca. Five of the Barça players today, Araujo, Mingueza, Pedri, Trincao, and Riqui Puig, weren’t even born at the time!

After the match, Ter Stegen said, “I’m very happy for the team because we made such a huge effort. I always try to be one hundred percent and we always have to win these games.”

It was a great team effort and if Real Madrid win the other semifinal then it would another El Clasico in the final.

 

Facebook Comments