Lionel Messi was sent off for the first time playing for Barcelona as Athletic Bilbao stunned the Catalans to win the Spanish Super Cup on Sunday, a dramatic final finishing 3-2 after extra-time.
Moments before Bilbao’s momentous triumph was confirmed, Messi threw an arm at Asier Villalibre, who had earlier scored a 90th-minute equaliser in normal time to deny Barca victory.
Antoine Griezmann’s double looked to have sealed the trophy but Villalibre intervened before Inaki Williams’ fabulous strike three minutes into extra time proved decisive.
Messi shook off a thigh problem to start in Seville and was required to play all 120 minutes as Barcelona attempted to take the game to penalties.
Instead, the 33-year-old lost his temper at the end of a combative contest, reacting to a late challenge from Villalibre by swiping his hands across the back of his opponent.
It meant a first ever red card for Messi in 753 appearances for Barcelona, to go with his two reds for Argentina in 2005 and 2019.
“After so many years in football, Leo knows perfectly well when he is fit to play,” said Barca coach Ronald Koeman.
“We talked and he said he was in a good place to start. He has survived the game, given the maximum, nothing more.”
Messi’s anger will take some of the limelight away from Bilbao, who had already denied the competition a Clasico final by beating Real Madrid in the semi on Thursday and now have completed the set.
It means a title and the perfect start for Marcelino Garcia Toral, who only took over as coach less than two weeks ago.
But there was praise too for his predecessor Gaizka Garitano, who oversaw this team reaching the Copa del Rey final last season, which earned qualification in the first place.
“This is for Gaizka Garitano and his coaching staff as well who brought us here,” said Williams.
Organisers at the Spanish Football Federation might have hoped for the global attraction of a Clasico, especially as the coronavirus pandemic had already kept the tournament in Spain rather than the lucrative Saudi Arabia, where it was played last year.
Yet this was a frantic final, with a hugely surprising result.
Barca arrived on the back of a nine-game unbeaten run and a trophy, even a minor one, would have turned encouraging signs in recent weeks into more tangible evidence of a revival under Koeman.
“It is not a step back,” he said “Always winning titles is helpful to show that we are on the right track, but it is only one game, it is a Super Cup, and we will show in the next few games that we are on the right track.”
Bilbao were the better side in the first half, more decisive in possession and more aggressive out of it. But both teams created little for 40 minutes and then in two minutes both had scored.
A brilliant pass created each of them, Messi the instigator for Barca.
He collected from the right and threaded through for Jordi Alba on the left, whose cut-back was intended for the Argentinian but spilled out to Griezmann, who could not miss.
Marcelino hurled his water bottle to the ground in disgust but his team were soon level.
Williams played the pass, his clipped ball over the top catching Alba off-guard, with Oscar De Marcos sneaking in and half-volleying home.
Raul Garcia thought he had his third goal in four days when he headed in just before the hour but Barca survived.
With 10 minutes left, Griezmann struck again, Alba’s cross evading the Bilbao defence and finding the Frenchman, who steered in at the front post for what looked like the winner.
Instead, Bilbao scored in the 90th minute to send the game to extra-time and then the 93rd to lead for the first time.
Villalibre was allowed to volley in from close range but there was little Barca could do about Williams’ effort, the striker cutting inside from the left and whipping a tremendous shot into the top right-hand corner.
Unai Nunez might have sealed it but failed to connect. Griezmann almost rescued it but fired high on the volley with his right foot.
Then Villalibre left a shoulder in on Messi, who reacted, scuttling after his opponent and swinging an arm around the back of his head. Messi and Barca were beaten.
Barcelona midfielder Philippe Coutinho has undergone left knee surgery and will be sidelined for “around three months,” the club revealed on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Brazilian required the operation to mend a torn meniscus after he limped off the pitch late in Tuesday’s home draw with Eibar.
That 1-1 stalemate left Ronald Koeman’s side in sixth in La Liga, 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.
Coutinho, who joined Barcelona three years ago from Liverpool but was loaned to Bayern Munich last season, joins Koeman’s list of long-term absentees which includes Ansu Fati and Gerard Pique, both also sidelined with knee injuries.
Lionel Messi scored his 643rd goal for Barcelona on Saturday to equal Pele’s record of goals for a single club as the Spanish giants were held 2-2 by Valencia.
Messi headed in from Jordi Alba’s cross after his first-half penalty was saved to equal the mark set by the Brazilian great for Santos.
But Messi was left frustrated as a dogged Valencia forced a draw to leave Barcelona eight points behind leaders Atletico Madrid, who beat Elche 3-1 earlier in the day.
“There were times tonight with good football, we had total control of the match, especially after leading 2-1 where we tried to get the third, but there were also times when we lost the ball in the danger zones,” said Barca coach Ronald Koeman.
“What worries me is that sometimes the team doesn’t know what the game is about.
“We know we’re a team that always likes to attack and score goals, but there are also times when you have to defend and control the game.
“But the race for the title is not yet lost, we are far behind, but it’s a very complicated season for everyone. In two months, the situation may be totally different.”
Barcelona started slowly and went a goal behind to Mouctar Diakhaby’s unchallenged header from a corner after half an hour.
Antoine Griezmann earned the penalty that led to Messi’s record-equalling goal when the France attacker was nudged over by Jose Gaya.
Messi’s spot-kick was saved by Jaume Domenech but the ball rebounded and from Alba’s dinked cross, the Argentina forward headed the ball into the net to draw level with Pele.
Barcelona went ahead thanks to a superb scissor kick from Uruguay’s Ronald Araujo.
But Valencia’s pressure was rewarded when Maxi Gomez got in front of Barca central defender Oscar Mingueza to turn in a cross and equalise.
Philippe Coutinho drove a shot just wide with 12 minutes remaining and Messi curled a free-kick wide but Barcelona were forced to share the points.
Elsewhere, Luis Suarez scored twice from close range in a 3-1 victory for Atletico to move Diego Simeone’s side three points clear at the top.
In a tight first half at the Wanda Metropolitano, Atletico wasted a clear chance to take the lead when France forward Thomas Lemar drove the ball straight at Elche ‘keeper Edgar Badia as the defence opened up.
Suarez was far more clinical in the 41st minute as the Uruguay forward got the slightest of touches to steer Kieran Trippier’s cross past Badia to take the lead.
The former Barcelona and Liverpool attacker then stretched to poke the lively Yannick Carrasco’s pass into the net in the 58th minute.
Lucas Boye’s powerful header gave Elche hope in the second half but substitute Diego Costa, who has not hidden his frustration at being relegated to the bench since Suarez’s arrival, fired in a penalty with ten minutes remaining to wrap up the three points for Atletico.
“I’m very happy to be able to play again,” Costa told Movistar after the game.
“I have taken some hard blows but I always pick myself up again. It’s hasn’t been easy but I have enough strength to fight.”
Atletico have three more points than Real Sociedad who visit Levante later Saturday.
“The surgery has been a success and I am feeling very well.”
Iniesta joined Kobe in 2018 after making 442 appearances for Barcelona, where he was the midfield dynamo in some of the club’s greatest ever teams.
Iniesta was a key part of the Barcelona sides that won trebles in 2009 and 2015. In all he won nine La Liga crowns and four European Champions League titles and orchestrated Spain’s 2010 World Cup triumph in South Africa.
Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice from the penalty spot to win his battle with rival Lionel Messi and guide Juventus to a 3-0 win over Barcelona on Tuesday, earning the Italians top spot in Champions League Group G.
The former Real Madrid striker and his Argentina counterpart traded Ballon d’Or wins for a decade between 2008-2017 and were figureheads for the duelling Spanish giants, but there was only one winner at the Camp Nou as they met for the first time since Ronaldo’s departure for Juve in 2018.
Andrea Pirlo’s Juventus lost 2-0 at home against Barcelona in October without Ronaldo, sidelined with Covid-19, but were greatly improved and earned the first Champions League away win against Barcelona since Bayern Munich triumphed in 2013.
Both sides, tied on 15 points, were assured of qualification before kick-off, but Juve’s three-goal victory handed them a superior head-to-head record.
Ronald Koeman, reeling from Barcelona’s 2-1 defeat by promoted minnows Cadiz on Saturday in La Liga, reacted by making four changes but the hosts started badly.
It only took 13 minutes for Ronaldo to break the deadlock, slotting home from the penalty spot after the referee deemed Ronald Araujo’s challenge on him a foul.
Juventus did not relent and their pressure led to a second goal, US midfielder Weston Mckenzie volleying home Juan Cuadrado’s sweetly clipped cross in the 20th minute.
The Catalans and their captain Messi finally woke from their slumber, as the attacker had one effort blocked by Matthijs de Ligt and another saved by veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, while Pjanic lashed over the bar.
Ronaldo notched his second from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute after Clement Lenglet handled clumsily in the area, as the hosts imploded.
Antoine Griezmann, who was invisible in the first half, grazed the crossbar with a looping header from a Messi free kick, and Buffon beat out another effort, with De Ligt’s pressure enough to stop Martin Braithwaite converting the rebound.
Leonardo Bonucci had a fourth goal ruled out for offside after he tapped in Ronaldo’s effort from close range, with Messi trying in vain at the other end to answer Ronaldo, but he found the 42-year-old Buffon in his way time and time again.
Dembele suffered a string of serious injuries to his right hamstring last season and appeared in only nine games for Barcelona. This season he has already played 12 times and scored four goals, including one in a Champions League victory at Ferencvaros on Wednesday.
He came on at half-time in Cadiz, with Barcelona already a goal down in a match they eventually lost 2-1.
He joins a growing injury list at the Camp Nou.
Teenage phenomenon Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto and defender Gerard Pique all suffered serious injuries in November and will be out until next year. Defender Samuel Umtiti is another long-term casualty.
Manager Ronald Koeman has been rotating other players who are carrying knocks, including goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and defender Clement Lenglet. Both returned to the team on Saturday and made costly errors.
The loss in Cadiz dropped Barcelona to eighth, 12 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid. Both clubs have played 10 games.
“A gap of 12 points to a team as strong as Atletico Madrid is a lot,” said Koeman on Saturday.
“There are still games to be played, but if we don’t improve our attitude and our consistency away from home, we can’t have a say.”
Ter Stegen made his first error after eight minutes, staying on his line at a corner and then flapping at a soft close-range header from Alvaro Gimenez.
With the scores level after 64 minutes, Lenglet, in his won penalty area, failed to control the ball from a Barcelona throw-in. Ter Stegen charged out but whiffed on his attempted clearance, knocking the ball against Alvaro Negredo who rolled it into an empty net.
“We conceded goals that I can’t think of other teams I’ve coached letting in,” said Koeman.
“We have to improve. When you don’t have the ball, you have to go into battle with your opponent. I’m very disappointed.
“The attitude was not good tonight, not only from the defenders.”
Barcelona have won just four games in La Liga but have been imperious in the Champions League, winning all five games.
“They are different competitions,” said Koeman. “Defeat is difficult to explain. We were coming off good games.”
Interim Barcelona president Carles Tusquets said Thursday he would have sold Argentine star Lionel Messi in the summer.
Messi made an attempt to leave Barcelona this summer before backing down. He can talk to other clubs in January and leave for free when his contract expires in June, with Manchester City expected to make a renewed attempt to lure the 33-year-old away from Camp Nou.
“From an economic point of view, I would have sold Messi this summer. Economically, that would have been desirable,” Tusquets told Catalan radio Rac1.
“La Liga imposes salary caps and that would have helped us,” Tusquets said when asked what a potential transfer would have offered.
Tusquets, who took over as interim president after the resignation of Josep Maria Bartomeu in October, all but ruled out a return of Neymar to Barcelona from Paris Saint-Germain.
“If he comes as a free agent, that could work, but if we don’t sell, we won’t be able to recruit. It won’t be possible, unless the next president (who will be elected on January 24) has a miracle in his hands,” said Tusquets.
Barca’s financial status, Tusquets added, was “worrying, very bad, but with hope”.
“We will not be able to pay salaries in January,” he said.
“In January, the players will not be paid, but it’s not serious. The players have two big paydays, in January and July. That has been delayed, as have title bonuses.”
Lionel Messi will be given a timely rest by coach Ronald Koeman as Barcelona travel to Hungary for a Champions League match at Ferencvaros on Wednesday with their tickets already booked for the next round.
Barcelona top Group G on 12 points from four games, but are wallowing in seventh in the Spanish Liga a daunting 10 points behind leaders Real Sociedad.
Barcelona’s struggling coach Ronald Koeman said the match in Hungary was an excellent opportunity to rest stars and give a run out to lesser lights.
“We wouldn’t normally do this, but with the calendar being what it is this year there are only a few opportunities to rest people and tomorrow is one of them,” said the Dutchman.
Goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and Brazilian midfielder Coutinho will also sit out the match to be fresh for domestic duties.
“Saturday’s match (against Cadiz) is an important one for our progress in the league, and after tomorrow, there will be few opportunities to rest for anyone,” Koeman said.
Messi “is key for our attack, if the ball reaches him, there is movement, there is a lot of quality in his passes,” Koeman said.
“At the beginning of the season, he struggled a bit more and this might not be a 30 goal season.
“But he is working well, he is still a very important and decisive player in our attack. Leo is a player who always wants to play.”
Barcelona’s backup forward Martin Braithwaite could start on Wednesday after scoring three times in his last two matches.
Barcelona qualified for the Champions League last 16 with two games to spare on Tuesday as Martin Braithwaite scored twice in a 4-0 win over Dynamo Kiev.
Lionel Messi was among a handful of key players rested for Barca but Braithwaite’s double, as well as goals from Sergino Dest and substitute Antoine Griezmann saw the Catalans safely through, joining Juventus in progressing from Group G.
First and second place are still to be settled, with Barcelona playing away at Ferencvaros next week before a potential decider at home to Juve, who beat the Hungarian side 2-1 in Turin thanks to a late Alvaro Morata winner.
After taking maximum points from their first three games, Ronald Koeman took the chance to rotate as Messi and Frenkie de Jong were left out of the squad completely while Jordi Alba and Griezmann were both on the bench.
Instead, Koeman named a youthful line-up that included a senior debut for Oscar Mingueza in central defence, with Francisco Trincao, Pedri and Carles Alena also given chances to impress.
There will certainly be tougher opponents than Dynamo to navigate but Mingueza delivered a composed display and may be trusted again given Barcelona’s current shortage in defence.
Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Ronald Araujo are all out injured.
Braithwaite certainly did his chances no harm by taking his total number of goals for Barca from one to three, the first a penalty, and a deserved return for his tireless performance upfront.
The victory also continues Barca’s excellent form in Europe, which comes in stark contrast to their struggles in La Liga, where they sit 12th in the table following Saturday’s 1-0 defeat by Atletico Madrid.
Dynamo were also depleted, without their top scorer Viktor Tsyhankov, who was ill, and they never really threatened their opponents like they did in the return fixture last month.
They will now battle Ferencvaros for third place and qualification for the Europa League.
Barcelona dominated the ball in the first half but were unable to breach a determined Dynamo defence, even if there was little threat from the home side, even on the break.
The opening goal came from an unlikely source as Dest fired a pass into Alena and while the ball was returned to Braithwaite on the edge of the box, Dest took over, carrying it into his stride and shooting into the far corner for his first goal for the club.
Braithwaite’s time would come five minutes later as he finished off Alena’s corner at the back post and then he made it three from the penalty spot, after being pushed in the back by Denys Popov as he tried to head in Alba’s cross.
Popov had already blazed wide what was perhaps Dynamo’s best chance at the back post while Koeman had made changes bringing on Griezmann, Alba and Riqui Puig.
Puig should have added a fourth but skied Dest’s cutback over before Greizmann did, capping a lively cameo by driving in and rounding off a comfortable victory.