Step back of the Blaugrana compared to the first day: Martinez throws the Basques, remedies the Dutch
Soft and bewildered, but also lucky and driven by an excellent Depay. This is the second Barça of the season that, after the convincing success of last week, swerves dangerously in Bilbao until the great play of the Dutch center forward. He is the one who sets the final 1-1 after the home advantage signed by Martinez, but the home side remains a bitter taste for a clear overwhelming power during three quarters of the game. The Blaugrana pay for the disastrous performances of Griezmann, almost not received, and of Garcia, insecure, guilty on the opponent’s goal and sent off in the recovery.
The Basques have proved to be tough opponents over the past three years, especially in the San Mames fort. So Koeman avoids experiments by relying on the same eleven who last week trimmed a poker at Real Sociedad. Usual deployment also for Marcelino, who focuses on Sancet and Williams at the top of a compact 4-4-2 designed to asphyxiate the opponent’s dribble. The combination of high blood pressure and intensity, now a trademark of the Basques, is precisely what puts the Blaugrana in difficulty throughout the first half, despite the Catalans devouring the advantage at the first useful play after 6 ‘with a tiraccio from Braithwaite.
The opportunity wasted by the Dane and a goal canceled in Araujo in the 46th minute due to a doubtful foul by Braithwaite remain the only rings of the Catalans before the break. On the contrary, the hosts grind the game and waste opportunities repeatedly for too much frenzy in the last fifteen meters. To keep Barça afloat also the crossbar, the one that catches the 11 ‘Sancet with a great turn of the right. But the Blaugrana remain in apnea with an uncertain Neto, Garcia in trouble on Williams, Dest bewildered and, as if that weren’t enough, Piqué forced to raise the white flag in the 30th minute for a blow to the side. Barça is saved again at the beginning of the second half thanks to a desperate intervention by Araujo, who rejects a safe shot from Berenguer on the line. But in the 50th minute Athletic found the right prize with a header on the near post by Martinez, quick to burn a disastrous Garcia. The darkness falls on Barça, so much so that in the 63rd minute it takes Neto’s reflexes to avoid a new slip.
Depay takes care of it
Yet Koeman’s band finds the right reaction thanks to the flashes of the singles: first De Jong’s crossbar in the 74th minute with a delicate dig, then Depay’s shot that, from a tight angle, finds the winning left in the 75th minute. The Dutch duo lifts the Catalans from their torpor in the last quarter of an hour, catching a match that Athletic had so much deserved from the start with a superlative performance full of sacrifice and substance. In the final, just before the red to Garcia for a hold on Williams launched at the net, Depay even close to the winning goal, but it would have been too much for an Athletic who had the lion’s share.
August 22 – 00:07
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