Barcelona’s ordeal took a new turn Sunday night when the club’s captain, Lionel Messi was sent off in the final Super Cup match against Athletic Bilbao.
The Argentine astro was caught in an aggressive encounter near the winners’ box, and was sent off after the referee reviewed the incident through VAR. It thus marks the first time Messi is seeing a red card in his football career in Barcelona.
Messi who returned from injury to join Barcelona’s starting lineup led the team to a 2-2 goal line that took the game into extra time.
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Frenchman Antoine Griezmann took advantage of a rebound from Messi to score the first goal for Barcelona. Bilbao responded two minutes later as Oscar De Marcos met Inaki Williams’ cross to put the game level at half time.
Raul Garcia’s header was disallowed for offside by VAR as the second half, which Bilbao dominated with many chances, began. Griezmann was close to sealing the victory for Barcelona with his second goal of the night before Bilbao’s substitute Villalibre volleyed home a 90-minute stunner, sending the game into additional 30 minutes.
Three minutes into extra time, Williams curled the winner into Barcelona’s net from the edge of the box. Barcelona’s effort to thwart the lead was marred by Messi’s red card. The game ended in a 2-3 win to Bilbao.
“What a goal it was!” Bilbao coach Marcelino said about 93rd minute winner. “It was a great piece of skill and you couldn’t produce a better finish.”
“In general I don’t think Barca deserved to take the lead, especially in the first half, anyway. The lads were so focused on this game and I’m so proud of them. They make your job easy and enjoyable,” he added.
Marcelino was only appointed Bilbao’s coach this month following the dismissal of Gaizka Garitino, and his win marks his second success in finals against Barcelona, after previous winning in the 2019 Copa del Rey final with Valencia. However, he acknowledged that it’s going to be difficult to keep the form that got him the cup.
“It’s going to be impossible to keep up that record. I don’t know many semi-finals I had to play before actually reaching a final, I think it was eight, but now I have won in two finals,” he said.
It’s Andy Koeman’s first test final as Barcelona’s coach. The Dutch man who inherited a depleted Barcelona team riddled with crisis has been under pressure to steer the Catalan giants to winning ways. The season has so far proved disappointing as Barca currently occupies third place on the La Liga table.
Messi who had last year asked to leave the club had said his future will be determined by the situation in the club. The six-time Ballon Do’r winner got into a fight with the Barcelona’s management over poor performance of the club, and it led to the resignation of the entire board including past president, Josep Bartomeu.
Messi’s unlikely red card on Sunday night reveals his frustration with the team, as his happiness is apparently waning in his childhood club.
The club is working to elect a new president as soon as possible in hope that it will appease Messi and make him stay. With the former president, Joan Laporta, who won the primary, polling over 10,000 votes, poised to return as new Barcelona president, the club’s fans are hopeful that the world’s best player will stay.