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Athletic Bilbao Triumphs Over Barcelona in Copa del Rey Quarter-Final

Football  •  25 Jan, 2024  •  54,968 Views  •  ⭐ 1.0

Written by Shivani Chourasia

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Barcelona faced a disappointing elimination from this season's Copa del Rey, succumbing to a 4-2 defeat against Athletic Bilbao in a heart-wrenching quarter-final match at San Mamés on Wednesday night. Despite an initial setback, Barcelona demonstrated resilience but ultimately fell short in an intense Cup tie that extended well into extra time. Iñaki Williams, a consistent threat to Barça, played a pivotal role in Athletic's victory, marking the third time in five years that Bilbao has ousted Barcelona at San Mamés.


Initial Struggles and Bilbao's Early Lead

LaLigaExtra on X: "The renewal of 27 year old striker Gorka Guruzeta is in  its final stages. He will remain at Athletic Club for at least another 3  years until 2027. ✍️🇪🇸 [@
Image Credits: X.com

The match commenced with Barcelona immediately lagging due to a series of defensive blunders: a misdirected pass from Lamine Yamal sparked a sequence leading to Yuri Berchiche's cross, and a botched clearance, compounded by Iñaki Peña's hesitancy, resulted in Gorka Guruzeta scoring just 37 seconds into the game. Bilbao's aggressive high press from the start disrupted Barça's rhythm, leading to numerous unproductive long balls and a failure to maintain possession effectively. This allowed Athletic to swiftly transition from defence to offence, posing multiple threats.
After enduring a challenging initial 10 minutes, Barcelona gradually began to control the possession, methodically working the ball from the back to create attacking opportunities. However, their efforts to generate a significant chance were hindered, and their situation worsened with Alejandro Balde's exit due to a suspected hamstring injury, necessitating Héctor Fort's entry as his replacement after 23 minutes.

Barcelona's Comeback and Half-Time Advantage

Pedri - Player profile 23/24 | Transfermarkt
Image Credits: Transfermarkt

The game's dynamic shifted when Andreas Christensen's precise long ball found Ferran Torres, who then located Pedri in a prime position. Although Pedri was initially thwarted, the subsequent clearance attempt by Athletic's defence ricocheted off Robert Lewandowski and resulted in an odd yet crucial goal for the visitors. This boost in confidence led Barcelona to intensify their off-ball pressure, soon paying off when Lamine Yamal, with an exceptional individual effort, curled a shot into the bottom corner, marking a remarkable turnaround for Barcelona by the half-hour mark.
Stunned by Barcelona's swift recovery, Athletic Bilbao lost momentum, and despite some offensive efforts, they failed to significantly challenge Barcelona's defence. The half-time whistle signalled the end of an exhilarating first half, with Barcelona having demonstrated admirable resilience and spirit to overcome their early setback and enter the break with a lead. However, the match was far from decided, and Barcelona was aware of the need to withstand Athletic's expected onslaught in the second half to secure their semi-final berth.



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Second Half: Athletic Bilbao's Early Strike and Equalizer

Athletic Club's breakout talent Oihan Sancet nets the first hat-trick of  the LaLiga Santander season | OneFootball
Image Credits: OneFootball

As anticipated, Athletic Bilbao initiated the second half with vigour, maintaining possession and putting pressure on Barcelona, who shifted to a more defensive stance in an attempt to safeguard their lead. However, Barcelona's strategy faltered early in the half. Just four minutes in, a cross from Nico Williams from the left led to a crucial moment as Peña hesitated to leave his line, giving Oihan Sancet ample opportunity to head in the equalizer.

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