There should not have been any hiccups and it should not have been a night to forget for Barcelona. The final of the Spanish Super Cup at Seville was supposed to be an El Clasico, but Athletic Club stunned Real Madrid in the semifinals and they repeated it at the fag end of an eventful final.

Barcelona were looking confident and it seemed that silverware under Ronald Koeman was around the corner. Of course, it should have been such and when the opportunities come, you don’t blow it away like this, rather make it sure that the opposition – who are the underdogs – can never find a way back.

Athletic Club, who lost against Barcelona 3-2 in La Liga just two weeks back, clawed back into the game.

This competition may be fourth on the list of Barcelona’s priorities this season, but Koeman targeted victory in this four-team tournament to strengthen his claims that the club is on the right track under his tenure.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen palmed Ander Capa’s long-range drive over the crossbar from the game’s first shot on target as Athletic threatened after 26 minutes.

Barca slowly found their rhythm and took the lead through their first meaningful attack, Antoine Griezmann drilling home after Messi’s shot from a Jordi Alba cutback was blocked.

It took Athletic just a minute and 33 seconds to respond through De Marcos, who ghosted in to guide Williams’ impressive pass over the top away from Ter Stegen. And Garcia thought he had given his side the lead just before the hour mark, only for his header to be rightly ruled out for offside following a VAR check.

Barca seemed to have won the game in normal time when Alba again got in behind and teed up Griezmann to steer home, yet there was to be a late twist –  Iker Muniain sent a free-kick into the box and Villalibre, having kept himself just onside, fired past Ter Stegen to salvage an additional 30 minutes.

It was a stunning moment for which no one was waiting for.

The unthinkable happened in the extra-time.

Near the end of the Spanish Super Cup final, Messi played a pass and took a swing at Asier Villalibre as the Athletic forward ran across his path. Referee Gil Manzano missed the incident at first but upon a VAR review, he showed Messi a straight red card for violent conduct.

It was the first red card Messi has ever received as a Barcelona player, coming in his 753rd appearance for the club.

Messi could now face at least a four-game ban for his actions, depending on a review from the Spanish FA.

That means at a minimum – Messi could miss his side’s Copa del Rey tie against Cornella on Thursday, and La Liga matches against Elche, Athletic Club, and Real Betis.

But before all the drama, the moment of magic from Williams arrived three minutes into extra time as he cut inside Oscar Mingueza and curled the ball away from Ter Stegen into the top-right corner.

Barca found the opportunity to take the game to the tie-breaker but Griezmann volleyed wide at the back post from the best of their remaining chances.

Jordi Alba was directly involved in four goals but two of those were Athletic’s and defensively Barcelona disintegrated while in attack they created little and in the middle, they were never in control. Not on the pitch; not on the bench either. Nor did they react when they needed to, the personality required absence.

The night belonged to Athletic – there was joy, ecstasy and this was a trophy raised in an empty stadium by the club that, along with their Basque rivals and scheduled opponents Real Sociedad, refused to play last year’s Copa del Rey final without their fans.

Still, this remains a huge moment for them and one their supporters will cherish and for their new manager Marcelino García Toral too: he has been in charge for just three games – against Barcelona, Madrid and Barcelona again – and already he has the medals of the champions.


Messi bottles another trophy.

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