Category Archives: Football (Soccer)

Athletic Bilbao claim Supercopa Glory

One of the best players in the world getting sent off for swinging his arm at the head of an opponent during Sunday’s Supercopa de España final, but that shouldn’t be the main focus. The story should be that Spain’s oldest club, Athletic Club de Bilbao (Bilboko Athletic Kluba in their native Basque), won only their second trophy this century.

The Spanish Super Cup, (the equivalent of Ireland’s Presidents Cup, or England’s Community Shield) changed format last season. Where previously the winners of the league would play the winners of the cup, we now see 4 teams play out a semi-final and a final. The two cup finalists and top two teams in the league enter the tournament, which is a straight affair.

Lasts season’s cup final is still yet to take place, it was originally rescheduled for late last year in the hopes that fans would be allowed into the stadiums to witness Basque rivals Real Sociedad take on Athletic Club. They were joined by last seasons La Liga champions Real Madrid and the runners-up Barcelona.

Many would have been banking on an El Classico final, and if there was going to be an upset Real Sociedad, having been higher achievers than Athletic Club recently, would have been the more likely. The young battling Sociedad side put it up to Barcelona in the semi-finals, equalizing early in the second half through an Oyarzabal penalty to cancel out De Jong’s goal just before the break. Barcelona would ultimately progress 2-3 on penalties, with Sociedad missing their first 3.

The stage was set for Real Madrid to join their rivals in the final the following day. Athletic Club threw out the script with two goals in a 20-minute spell in the first half from veteran Raul Garcia. Karim Benzema got one back in the 2nd half, with the Frenchman continuing to be the La Liga champions most reliable attacking threat. Bilbao hung on despite having only 30% of possession to set up a repeat of the 2015 final.

Back in 2015 the final was a two-legged affair. Barcelona had won the Champions League a few months earlier, and had beaten their opponents in the cup final the previous season. Boasting Messi and Suarez upfront, with Pedro in for Neymar, Barca were the favorites then too. Bilbao stunned them with a 4-0 win, coals from Mikel San José and a hatrick from club legend Aritz Aduriz. In the away leg Aduriz equalized to secure a 1-1 draw, and a 5-1 aggregate win. The sides also met in the Supercopa in 2009, 1983, and 1945, with Barca winning on each occasion.

Bilbao appointed Marcelino Garcia Toral as coach 13 days before the final. Marcelino had beaten Barca in the Copa del Rey final back in 2019 with Valencia. He had lost to Barca in the league in one of his first games in charge. Despite struggling by their high standards this season, Barca were favorites.

A move to a 1-4-4-2 has suited Athletic Club, helping them remain compact despite having significantly less possession. Sevilla was the venue for the final. An early chance for Inaki Williams (more on him later) showed Bilbao were in the game, but Barca eventually took the lead through Antoine Griezmann after Messi’s shot was blocked. The flood gates could have opened there.

But they didn’t, the lead lasted two minutes. Williams put in a cross that found Oscar de Marcos, who squeezed the ball just inside the left post. 1-1 After a lively first half

Athletic were in dream land 12 minutes into the second half when Raul Garcia got onto Iker Munian’s freekick and headed powerfully into the net. The celebrations were wild until they were cut short by VAR showing the goal was offside. Griezmann got his 2nd 20 minutes later, which looked to be that until the 90th minute. Lenglet gave away a freekick, which Munian sent into the box. Asier Villalibre found the roof of the net. 2-2. Extratime was on the cards.

All 3 of Athletic Club’s goals came at good times, the end of the first half, the end of the 2nd half, and the start of extratime. Barcelona put Bilbao under pressure early in the first half of extratime, until Inaki Williams found himself in space at the edge of the box. His shot hit off the post and went in to the top right corner.

Barcelona looked deflated and frustrated. Those emotions manifested themselves in Messi swinging his arms at an Athletic defender when Barca had an attack. VAR ruled it was a red card, the Argentine was sent off. Messi had only been sent off twice in his senior career, both for Argentina. Now he is set to miss the next few league games. Bilbao hung on putting their bodies on the line.

Athletic Bilbao lift only their 2nd trophy this year. The Basque club has never been relegated despite having a policy of selecting only players who were born in, or trained in, the Basque region. They currently sit just 5 points off the relegation zone, but will now be looking up the table towards the European spots.

Spain's oldest club lift silverware for the 2nd time this decade.
Flashscore.com

Best Players To Be Knocked Out Of The UCL

Previously we made a 23-man squad of players from countries that didn’t qualify for the Euros. Now here’s our look at the best players who have been knocked out of the Champions League.

Goalkeeper

Mandatory 3 goalkeepers.

André Onana (Ajax)

Ajax conceded the least amount of goals of teams not progressing to the last 16 with Onana in net.

Samir Handanović (Inter)

In 6 games; 9 goals conceded, 2 clean sheets, the 2nd best record of keepers who won’t be in the last 16.

Andriy Pyatov (Shaktar Donetsk)

Shakhtar’s 3rd most capped player of all time.

Defenders

A lot of experience.

Vedran Ćorluka (Lokomotiv Moscow)

One of Croatia’s most capped players, the center-back retired from international football after the 2018 World Cup.

Milan Škriniar (Inter)

A commanding presence who can step into midfield.

Daley Blind (Ajax)

Reliable at left-back or in the middle.

Miha Blažič (Ferencváros)

414 passes completed, the highest amount of a player for any team to not progress.

Achraf Hakimi (Inter)

Originally a winger, Hakimi can play as a right or left fullback. Buckets of pace and a great passer.

Stefan de Vrij (Inter)

Played all 6 games for Inter, useful defender.

Nicolás Tagliafico (Ajax)

A left back with stamina to spare. The Argentine has been linked with big moves in recent years.

Midfielders

(We had included Dominik Szoboszlai who played for RB Salzburg, but he has since signed for RB Leipzig and will be eligible to play in the knockout rounds.)

A play-maker heavy selection.

Eduardo Camavinga (Stade Rennais)

The most exciting teenage midfielder in world football. Only 18, already an all around midfielder.

Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge)

Highest distance covered of players from teams that didn’t progress. Also scored 3 goals.

Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

Similarly to De Gea in years gone, the red side of Manchester would be struggling greatly without Fernandes. Excellent playmaker who can start and finish a move.

Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax)

The 18 year-old got his first UCL goal this season.

Nicolò Barella (Inter)

Box-to-Box midfielder who is already a leader at such a young age.

Zlatko Junuzović (RB Salzburg)

Free-kick specialist.

Marcelo Brozović (Inter)

Does the deep-lying play-maker role well.

Anton Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow)

Scored 3 goals for Lokomotiv, including the equalizer against Atleti and one against Bayern Munich.

İrfan Can Kahveci (İstanbul Başakşehir)

Scored 3 goals from outside the area, the most of anybody in the group stage.

Forward

Plenty of goals up front.

Dušan Tadić (Ajax)

3 Assists in the group stage, the experienced forward can play on the wing or in the middle.

Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)

Joint top-scorer of the tournament so far with 6.

Romelu Lukaku (Inter)

2nd top scorer of teams that haven’t progressed with 4 goals.

Franck Boli (Ferencváros)

2 goals in 77 minutes, both coming in the 90th minutes of the respective games.