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FC Barcelona have crashed out of the Copa del Rey after an extraordinary game in Bilbao on Thursday night. The two sides that have lifted the trophy more than any others produced action and intensity from start to finish and although Athletic Club took the lead twice, Barça were able to find an answer each time.
They did it first with Ferran Torres’ first ever goal for his new club and did it again with an equaliser from Pedri in the dying moments of injury time.
But despite managing to take the game into extra time in such dramatic fashion, the Catalans were unable to finish the job in added time. Instead Athletic went back in front, and this time it was going to be definitive.
Two golazos for starters
It had only taken Athletic a couple of minutes to get the first of those goals. Iker Muniain’s curled finish into the top right corner was anything but the start that Barça wanted but on twenty minutes the blaugrana were back level.
Ferran Torres’ first goal for his new club was almost identical replica of Munian’s effort in terms of the bending strike into the top corner, but the build-up was very different. Ferran’s fine conversion was the icing on the cake following a delightful series of no fewer than 22 quickfire passes involving nine different players!
Athletic v Barça is a Copa del Rey classic and the 2022 version was proving to be no disappointment in terms of the action. But a worrying amount of it was in the direction of Barça’s goal.
Nico Williams in particular was causing plenty of headaches and had the home side’s finishing been sharper or Ter Stegen’s goalkeeping a little bit blunter then San Mamés could easily have had something else to celebrate again before the break.
The second half was more the kind of match we were expecting. Barça looked far more in control of the game and started creating more and more danger. That said, the Basque counter attack continued to be a constant threat.
As the rain lashed down and the clock ticked down, extra time seemed inevitable. Indeed, there would be an added thirty minutes, but there were two more goals to come before that…
Iñigo Martínez scrambled the ball across Ter Stegen’s line in the most unorthodox of fashions and San Mamés erupted. It was looking like heartbreak for Barça. Rather than sit back and defend their lead, the red and whites surged forward in search of more. Iñaki Williams hit the bar that wasn’t the only chance they had to kill the match.
Three minutes into injury time and Barça looked beaten. But just when all hope was fading, they found a little bit of late magic to save the day … for the moment.
Dani Alves’ spectacular overhead shot/assist landed at the feet of Pedri and bang! 2-2, the Canary Islander’s first goal since returning from injury, and we were heading into overtime.
One would have imagined the momentum to have been on Barça’s side. But the cause was not helped by the worrying loss of both Pedri and Ansu Fati to injury, the exact extent of which will be announced on this website as soon as we have details.
What’s more, Athletic looked anything but crushed by the late blow in regulation time, and neither had the exertions of the first 90 minutes affected their intensity.
The home side took the lead for the third and final time when a handball by Jordi Alba was punished with a penalty.
Muniain converted and Athletic Club will be heading into the quarter finals
It was one that it was a pity that anyone had to lose what had been an absolutely fabulous game of football. But the Copa del Rey 2021/22 journey ends here for FC Barcelona, and from now on the focus will be entirely on La Liga and the Europa League.
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