FC Barcelona vs Bilbao Copa del Rey : Match Report
Barcelona made smooth advances in their bid for a fourth Copa del Rey victory in eight years when the two strikers Munir el Haddadi and Neymar struck in a 2-1 success against Athletic Bilbao in their quarter-final, first leg clash on Wednesday.
Barça have defeated Bilbao three times in the final since 2009, including, of course, last season, and the Spanish and European champions did well in the absence of Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez to gain the lead before the return game takes place at the Nou Camp in a week’s time.
Messi was given rest as a precaution after he had to leave the ground at half-time in Sunday’s 6-0 triumph at home to Bilbao in La Liga and Suárez had to deal with his suspension for his part in a rather unwanted fracas after the last 16, first-leg game homed at Espanyol.
Bilbao, who incidentally had their goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz sent off just on the fourth minute mark on Sunday, made a solid start at their San Mames stadium resorted in the Basque country but typically fell behind following a fluid Barça move in the 18th minute.
Arda Turan sent Ivan Rakitic briskly down the right and his brilliantly executed cross was swept past the Bilbao goalkeeper Iago Herrerín by the youngster Munir, his fifth in the competition this season.
Slapstick defending line allowed Barça to make it 2-0 just seven minutes later. Herrerín blundered with a clearance and Aymeric Laporte slipped over rather gracelessly, leaving Neymar only to tap the ball into a completely empty net.
The Barça goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen executed a fine reaction save to keep at bay Sabin Merino’s 81st-minute header but Bilbao finally pulled a goal back only a minute from time.
The forward Aritz Aduriz found sufficient space in the penalty area and his first-time kick flew into the corner.
“The Bilbao goal could complicate the tie but we played a great game and now we have to close it out in the return,” Neymar told Spanish television.