They came for the epic comeback. It was epic but there was no comeback at the Nou Camp as Barcelona failed to overturn Athletic Bilbao’s first-leg 4-0 lead in the Spanish Super Cup, losing 5-1 on aggregate.
Lionel Messi put them in front at the Camp Nou on Monday night but Athletic held out and with a second-half goal from Aritz Aduriz , and with Gerard Pique sent off for dissent, they won their first trophy for 31 years.
The Basques won the League, the King’s Cup and Spanish Super Cup in 1984 and now – 31 years later – have another reason to sail some silverware down the Nervion river that runs through the city.
Ed Woodward was in Barcelona trying to close Pedro’s move to Old Trafford. The Spain winger started what could yet be his last game at the Nou Camp with all the enthusiasm of his first game and he had the first real chance only for Xabier Etxeita to flick his goalbound effort over the bar.
Pedro then crossed for Pique to volley on to the bar and Luis Suarez crossed just too high for the central defender as Barca pressed.
They were playing like men who believed in a comeback and it was enough for Athletic keeper Gorka Iraizoz to start taking his time over goal-kicks as early as midway through the first half.
Aduriz poised Athletic’s greatest threat. When he went through on goal late in the first half it was only Javier Mascherano’s pace and quick thinking that stopped him scoring.
His challenge was enough to send the ball to safety and the player to the ground. The referee waved away appeals and Barca then had another chance but this time Pedro kicked fresh air and Athletic’s goal remained intact. Pedro’s night was changing for the worst.
He then gave the ball away wide right of the visitor’s attack and Eraso had Aduriz unmarked in the middle but when he went for glory he found only the side-netting. It was a let-off for Barca and for Pedro.
With five minutes to go before the break Barca did find the first goal.
Rakitic crossed from the right and Suarez leaped high enough to chest the ball into Messi’s path but the Argentine took the ball down on his chest and volleyed past Iraizoz.
The Atheltic keeper dived on the ball. It had already crossed his line but he knew the quicker the game restarted the greater the chance that Barça would score again before the break. First Suarez and then Pedro tried to take it from him.
Referee Carlos Velasco should probably have kept his cards in his pocket with Barça’s attempts to retreive the ball as unsporting as Iraizoz’s attempts to keep it but instead he singled out the Barca winger giving the usually placid Pedro his third yellow card in the last three games.