Unimpressive but enough to get the three points. These are the ratings for each Barcelona player in Wednesday’s 1–0 win over Espanyol.
While hopes were high after Barcelona thrashed Villarreal 1–4 away from home on Sunday, the blaugranas didn’t exactly replicate the same vibrant performance against Espanyol on Wednesday, barely scrapping a 1–0 victory. Nevertheless, Quique Setién’s side managed to get the job done as a Luis Suárez goal in the 56th minute was enough to relegate city rivals to the Segunda División. Here’s how the players performed:
Marc-André ter Stegen: 7.5/10
A well deserved clean sheet for Marc-André ter Stegen, who made some vital saves for his team. He denied a dangerous shot from Adrián Embarba in the first half and continued making decent saves between the sticks after proceedings. Although the German shot-stopper wasn’t challenged much, he did well whenever the opposition took looks at goal.
Gerard Piqué: 7.5/10
Despite starting games with such consistency and barely having any rest, Gerard Piqué continued putting in spirited performances at the back. The Spaniard was often left isolated whenever Espanyol charged on the counter, but he maintained a solid presence in defence, positioning himself with perfection, and emerging successful in every battle he had to engage in. Aerially, he was a menace, winning 10 out of 14 duels, and on the ground he won two out of two duels. Along with his defensive prowess, the veteran contributed heavily to Barça’s build-ups.
Clément Lenglet: 7/10
While Clément Lenglet had been overshadowing his compatriot in defence over the past few games, he didn’t seem to be as imposing as Gerard Piqué on the night. Even so, Piqué’s superior performance mustn’t hide the fact that the Frenchman was confident on the ball and completed his defensive responsibilities effectively.
Nélson Semedo: 5/10
Nélson Semedo was unimpressive owning the right flank as he was mediocre in attack and careless in defence. The Portuguese had no impact moving upfield and rarely bothered to track back, leaving Piqué abandoned in transitions. Eventually, he was brought off for the second half.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Barcelona’s speed demon Jordi Alba looked slightly fatigued and lethargic on the field, not asserting the impact he typically has in the final third. Alba sent in some promising low crosses, but they never found a suitable outcome. Added to that, he frequently left his position in defense exposed.
“If we didn’t score in the first half or Barcelona didn’t create more chances, that’s virtue of the rival, who were very well organised. I think they make it difficult for Nélson Semedo and Jordi Alba to push up on the flanks. But eventually the chance came and I’m delighted to be able to take it”
Sergio Busquets: 7.5/10
A classic Sergio Busquets exhibition. The single pivot was once again Barcelona’s puppeteer in midfield, pulling the strings and barely seen putting a foot wrong. He was always a reliable passing outlet for his teammates, and a remarkable asset in defence, winning nearly all his duels. He may be losing the ability to complete the full 90 minutes, but Busquets’ intelligence will invariably be unmatched.
Iván Rakitić: 6.5/10
After displaying a few admirable performances last month, Iván Rakitić couldn’t meet the standards he had set. Despite being a dependable option in the centre of the park, he failed to provide his team with the creativity and innovation required as he was often hesitant to take risks. Still, the Croat did well defensively, making a couple of decent challenges.
Sergi Roberto: 7/10
Sergi Roberto played two positions for the azulgranas, both of them with extreme efficiency. Whilst he was far more impressive at right-back, Roberto was reasonably influential in midfield as he looked to be forward-thinking and imaginative for the hosts. Quique Setién’s men aimed to be build most of their plays from the left side of the field, which allowed Sergi to be on the ball quite frequently in the first half. After replacing Nélson Semedo on the right, he impressed with his end product.
Sergi Roberto had to be Mr. Versatility once more as he played in midfield in the first half and at right-back in the second | Photo by Alex Caparrós via Getty Images
Lionel Messi: 7/10
No contribution on the scoreline for Lionel Messi, but the Argentine was practically Barcelona’s only major threat in attack. He linked up well with his partners in attack and managed to get out of Espanyol’s tightly imposed markers. Although he failed to find the back of the net, he had a brilliant volley denied by Diego López in the second half.
Luis Suárez: 6.5/10
Luis Suárez was extremely inefficient in possession and a tremendous liability on the field. He provided no encouraging movement off the ball with his staticity in attack scarecely troubling the Periquitos. However, a tap-in after proceedings hid a disaster-class from the Uruguayan, making him the club’s third highest goalscorer.
“I’m very happy and proud of becoming the club’s third top scorer. I am lucky to have worn this Barça shirt”
Antoine Griezmann: 7/10
Notwithstanding Antoine Griezmann wasn’t able to reproduce the same display he had against Villarreal, the Frenchman had a far more convincing display than his Uruguayan partner in crime and actually provided his team with a certain level of danger in the opposing half. He was heavily responsible for the hosts’ opener and even created a great chance for Suárez in the first half, which he couldn’t capitalise on. Signs of improvement in the World Cup winner’s gameplay.
Barcelona 4-0 Athletic Bilbao: Match Review
A cup final has to be won. Barcelona and Athletic Club are the two clubs to have played the most Spanish Cup finals in history.
However, for the big occasion, one team was the most dominant. Barcelona kept the ball and ran riot on the Basque defence. The only aspect missing was the finishing, but the Catalans could be proud of their first-half display. The giants were so dominant that they had 82% of possession before the 40th-minute mark.
Marcelino’s men were nothing special apart from a few scares. The red and white outfit kept on defending their goal as if their lives depended on it. On the other hand, Barça could not crack the hermetic Basque backline, but Gerard Piqué tamed every attempt at a counter-attack Iñaki Williams tried to mount.
After a disappointing first-half display in El Clasico last weekend, Barcelona played some of their best football in the first half of the Cup final. Nonetheless, they still had to put their finishing boots on because the scare of getting beaten by an undeserved goal was too big.
Well, when Barça decided to lace their finishing boots, the game was over. The scoreline suggests the most inch-perfect of performances, and that’s precisely what Barça put on display for their fans.
Every player on the pitch put in a thorough performance and, in 12 minutes, the game was over. Frenkie de Jong and Lionel Messi were outstanding, much like Antoine Griezmann and Oscar Mingueza.
Along with the 6-1 demolition of Real Sociedad a month ago, this was perhaps the Catalans’ best performance of the season. What makes this performance better is that it came in a cup final, 721 days after Barcelona’s last trophy. This Spanish cup trophy is the result of months of serious work and beautiful emotions. Ronald Koeman deserves a lot of praise for what he has done with this Barça side.
5′ Sergio Busquets sends a beautiful chip towards Athletic’s area, and Lionel Messi connects with the ball. The Argentine finds Frenkie de Jong, but the Dutchman’s shot hits the post and Unai Simón before the Basque defence clears the ball.
47′ Lionel Messi kickstarts a counter-attack as Sergiño Dest is in acres of space. The American defender squares it to Antoine Griezmann, whose efforts end up in Unai Simón’s gloves.
52′ Barcelona play a short corner. Jordi Alba crosses the ball, and a deflection takes it towards Busquets. Unai Simón takes care of the holding midfielder’s effort.
59′ GOAL! Athletic Club 0-1 Barça: Oscar Mingueza intercepts an Iñaki Williams pass in the Blaugrana box. The youngster gets the ball to Messi. The captain spots Frenkie de Jong on the right who sends a great cross to Griezmann, who does not miss twice.
63′ GOAL’ Athletic Club 0-2 Barça: Barcelona play some great football at the edge of h
Their opponents’ area, and Alba sends another stupendous cross. Frenkie de Jong, after a brilliant run, heads in the ball and doubles the lead for his side.
68′ GOAL! Athletic Club 0-3 Barça: Messi goes on a beautiful run on the right and finds Frenkie de Jong. After a one-two, the midfielder finds his captain with little to no space. The captain does his usual magic and scores in the bottom corner.
71′ GOAL! Athletic Club 0-4 Barça: Pedri finds Alba, who plays the most inch-perfect one-two with Griezmann. The left-back’s backpass meets Messi. The Argentine legend finds the net at Unai Simón’s near post.
Man of the match: Frenkie de Jong
Of course, the leader of this demolition was the main man in midfield: Frenkie de Jong. The Dutchman’s first-half display was great, but it lacked the finishing touch, the end product.
After that, the 23-year-old took it upon himself to destroy Athletic and provided two assists while scoring one himself. This win does not come without a de Jong in the mood. The Blaugrana midfielder was everywhere in the second half, and he tortured a defence by being everywhere at any given time.
It is to no one’s surprise that Barça began being clinical when de Jong decided to play higher up the pitch and with more intensity. This Copa final was also de Jong’s most decisive in a Barça kit.