The Vicente Calderón was the venue for final masterpiece by Josep Guardiola and his incredible team. FC Barcelona have won the Copa del Rey for the 16th time on yet another amazing evening in which the result was as good as decided within the first half hour thanks to a brace from Pedro and another from Leo Messi. From then on, all Barça had to do was let the minutes pass as they delighted their fans with yet another astonishing spectacle of passing, possession and control. And at the end of it all, the 14th and final trophy of the Guardiola era was waiting.
After scoring the fastest three goals in the history of Spanish Cup Finals, FC Barcelona were well on course for the fourth trophy of the season, having already conquered the Spanish and European Supercups and the Clubs World Cup.
The game was only 25 seconds old when Messi sent a shot skimming wide of the post. Two minutes later, Pedro made the most of a misjudged defensive clearance to pounce on the ball and put a left-footed strike past a wrong-footed Gorka. Such an electric start left Athletic Bilbao shell-shocked, and what’s more, they got their tactics all wrong. Man marking was merely gifting space to FC Barcelona, and the Catalans made the most of the situation in devastating style.
3-0 after 25 minutes
Following yet another dangerous Messi strike, Gorka Iraizoz was called upon once again after a quarter of an hour. The Argentinian had another chance just five years later, the result of a magnificent Iniesta assist. Messi’s finish was as perfect as perfect could be, and Barça were already two up. It was a continuous FC Barcelona onslaught on the Bilbao goal, and after 25 minutes, Iraizoz was picking the ball out of the net for the third time. Pedro, following the massive confidence boost of the opening goal, was on target again. With more than two thirds of the game still to play, it was already clear that there was only ever going to be one champion. Why, even Mascherano had a pop on goal from the halfway line!
For the remainder of the first half and much of the second, Barça were at ease to do as they pleased. Looking relaxed and with Iniesta simply outstanding in midfield, Guardiola’s side produced footballing poetry. Messi, following one of his slalom runs that we never grow tired of admiring, came close to getting Barça’s fourth. Athletic Club, missing Susaeta and De Marcos from the break onwards, did manage to conjure up a chance or two of their own, but both Ibai and Aurtenetxe would have hoped for much better.
It was all over long before it finished. FC Barcelona suffered almost zero pressure throughout the entire second half, and instead gifted Guardiola the dream farewell. The outgoing manager is leaving the club after winning 14 titles out of a possible 19. We have been enjoying the exhibition for four years, but what we saw tonight at the Vicente Calderón was almost like a condensed version of all that magic. Magic that will never be forgotten.