Monday, 18 January 2021

Inaki Williams stars in Athletic Super Copa win as Messi sees red

Inaki Williams stars in Athletic Super Copa win as Messi sees red.

Inaki Williams extra-time goal gave Athletic Club a 3-2 victory over Barcelona in the final of the 2020/21 Supercopa de Espana on Sunday night at the Estadio de la Cartuja in Seville.

Barcelona were minutes away from claiming their first trophy in the Ronald Koeman era thanks to a pair of Antoine Griezmann goals that sandwiched an Oscar de Marcos strike, but a late equaliser from Asier Villalibre sent the two sides to extra time.

Williams would then produce his magic early in the extra frame to earn Athletic their first trophy since 2015 when they also defeated Barcelona in the Supercopa de Espana.

After missing the semi-final against Real Sociedad due to injury, Messi was back in the starting XI, as was right-back Sergino Dest, who came in for Oscar Mingueza.

The early stages were more of a feeling-out period rather than in anything in the way of chances and a legitimate attempt on goal didn't come until just shy of the half-hour mark when Raul Garcia ripped a shot goalward that Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to stretch for to tip over the crossbar.

Athletic did well to keep the Barcelona attack under wraps until the end of the half when some slick passing ended with the opening goal for Griezmann. Messi played a familiar one-two combination with left-back Jordi Alba, except that Messi's shot was blocked, however, Griezmann was there to clean things up with a finish to make it 1-0.

Barcelona's celebration had barely just ended with Athletic struck right back, with Williams serving up a ball over the top to De Marcos, who got behind Jordi Alba and finished past Ter Stegen to bring the Basques level 1-1.

Jordi Alba's interesting night took another turn, this time in a positive way for his side, as he linked up well with Dembele before squaring to Griezmann, who strike one-timed into the net to give Barcelona a 2-1 lead.

With the lead and time running out, Barcelona looked to put the squeeze on Athletic but Frenkie de Jong was unable to finish a counter-attack despite a perfect lay-off from Messi. Koeman waited until the final minutes to make his last substitutions, with Martin Braithwaite on for Dembele and Miralem Pjanic replacing Pedri.

Athletic would get one last look at the goal and they could not have asked for a better outcome, as Jordi Alba inexplicably ducked away from clearing Iker Muniain's freekick, allowing Villalibre to turn a shot into the net from six yards out to bring Athletic level 2-2.

Athletic carried that momentum right into extra time and Williams produced his moment of magic by collecting a ball on the left flank and curling a right-footed shot that banked in off the post to give Athletic their first lead of the night.

Barcelona needed a spark, so Koeman turned to his bench and brought on youngster Riqui Puig for Sergio Busquets, followed later by Trincao on for Clement Lenglet.

Right after Unai Nunez almost headed into his own net, Griezmann was presented with a chance to equalise, but missed badly on his right-footed volley. At the other end, it was all there for Athletic to put the nail in the coffin, only for Mikel Vesga and Nunez to collide on a header right in front of Ter Stegen.

Barcelona's bad night was capped with a last-minute straight red card for Messi for violent conduct on Villalibre, completing the Catalans' meltdown and giving Athletic a well-deserved crowning moment.

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