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Two names were particularly on everyone's lips after FC Barcelona beat Atlético Madrid 1-0 on Sunday. The first was João Félix, scorer of the only goal in a fabulous individual performance, and the other was Iñaki Peña, who has been standing as goalkeeper while Ter Stegen recovers from a back issue, and who made some vital saves to ensure the three points stayed at home.
Iñaki had had a fairly quiet evening until the final stages of the game, when Atlético burst into life and threatened several times to nab a late equaliser. The one for the highlight reel was his spectacular dive to deny a well-executed 80th minute free kick from former Barça man Memphis.
The other was a block at point-blank range when Ángel Correa looked likely to score in the very last minute of injury time. There were other moments of excellence from the 24-year-old stopper, but those two interventions were especially crucial.
Against Porto too
Peña's fine display came just five years after he had also excelled in the Champions League against Porto. He did concede a goal in the first half, but afterwards he played an important role in helping his team to bounce back and win the match.
He was particularly praised for a splendid low dive to keep out a brilliant strike from Galeno, a dazzling piece of acrobatics when Alan Varela shot, and a top piece of work to snatch the ball from the feet of Pepé. Thanks to Peña, the visitors were unable to score a second, and instead goals from João Cancelo and João Félix ensured that Barça are safely through to the knockout stages with a game in hand.
Made in La Masia
Born in Alicante in 1999, Iñaki Peña joined the Barça youth system from Villarreal in 2012. He rose up the ranks and and was in the side that won the UEFA Youth League in 2017/18.
By 2018, he was in the Barça Atlètic squad, but was also regularly named as substitute keeper for the first team, a situation that continued until the 2021/22 season, when he gained important experience on loan to Galatasaray, even getting to play against his parent club in the Europa League.
Back at Barça, on 1 November 2022, he made his competitive debut against Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.
His first Copa del Rey outing came on 4 January 2023 against Intercity, and on May 23 of the same year he faced Valladolid in his maiden Liga fixture.
In total, Iñaki Peña has only made eight first team appearances (2 in the Champions League, 4 in La Liga and 2 in the Copa del Rey), but he has made the very best of those opportunities, proving that Xavi is more than covered when it comes to people to put between the sticks!
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