Athletic Bilbao lifted the 2015 Supercopa de España at Barcelona’s Camp Nou, defeating the La Liga and Copa Del Rey champions 5-1 on aggregate.
Having led 4-0 after a remarkable first leg in Bilbao, Athletic defended valiantly against the efforts of their attacking opponents and Aritz Aduriz’s 74th minute goal ensured they lifted their first title since 1984.
On a personal level, this evening’s game saw me fulfill a lifelong dream of witnessing a match at the largest stadium in Europe and, as an extra bonus, seeing four-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi play and score for Barcelona.
The Supercopa de España, Spain’s equivalent to the English Community Shield, has been running since 1982 and the 2015 edition saw Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao go head to head for the fourth time in the competition’s history – Barca winning all three previous meetings.
Athletic Bilbao, known simply as ‘Athletic’ to their fans, were only involved in this prestigious fixture due to being runners-up in the Copa Del Rey as Barcelona won both the league and cup last season. However, the underdogs had proved themselves to be more than worthy opposition for European Champions in the first leg on Friday night, stunning them with a 4-0 hammering at San Mames.
With a holiday in the city of Barcelona planned long before, I was delighted to see the second leg fall on the day of my arrival from Sheffield – meaning I could finally fulfill a personal dream of seeing a match at the Camp Nou.
And my excitement quickly built on the day of the contest, as fans of both clubs donned their colours on the famous street of La Rambla before the journey to the stadium on the busy metro proved to be an experience in itself, the fans singing all the way to the Les Corts station, which lies just a short walk from the stadium.
Even with a couple of hours still to go until the 10 o’clock evening kick-off, there was an incredible atmosphere outside the stadium with a huge amount of noise and colour coming from a remarkable diversity of supporters, who had travelled from all over the world for this evening’s match.
Whilst, surprisingly, the Camp Nou isn’t the most impressive looking stadium from the outside, it really is a case of what’s on the inside that counts. After entering through the turnstile and making my way up to the second tier, my first look at the inside of the home of FC Barcelona was a breath-taking and unforgettable moment.
The already packed stadium let out its first roar of the evening when Barcelona megastars, including Luis Suarez, Andres Iniesta and of course Messi, made their way onto the field for the pre-match warm up.
But the noise was nothing compared to that when the players entered the field ready for action on this warm evening in Spain. The Barcelona anthem ‘El Cant de Barca’ echoed around the venue as the teams made their final preparations, before the second leg of the Supercopa de España finally got underway.
As expected, it was Barcelona who dominated the early action whilst Bilbao appeared understandably content to defend their considerable lead against the onslaught of attacks from Messi, Suarez and co.
The first half played host to wave after wave of attacks from Barcelona, who knew they had to get off to a fast start in the hope of a dramatic and memorable comeback this evening. But Bilbao’s defence stayed firm and frustrated their star-studded opposition, who came closest only six minutes in when Gerard Pique hit the crossbar.
With the away goals rule in effect, Bilbao knew a single goal this evening would leave Barcelona with the virtually impossible task of needing six. And they almost found this vital effort midway through the half when Javier Eraso stole the ball from Pedro, expected to be playing his final game for the club, before charging past Javier Mascherano – only to fire into the side netting at the near post.
And as half time approached, Messi gave the home side a glimmer of hope. Ivan Rakitic’s cross was brought down by Suarez, who set up the Argentine with an unmissable opportunity that he poked past Gorka Iraizoz from close range – before a goalmouth scuffle ensued as the Bilbao keeper looked to frustrate Barcelona further by keeping hold of the ball in order to stop a fast restart.
Despite pulling a goal back in the tie, Barcelona’s task was made dramatically harder shortly before the hour when Pique saw red following a confrontation with the assistant referee. And when Rakitic failed to convert a golden opportunity from close range soon after with the goal at his mercy, you began to get the feeling it was Bilbao’s night.
The 1984 Supercopa de España was the last trophy won by Bilbao, but in the 74th minute Aduriz brought their 31 year wait to an end. Some poor defending from Barca left the striker with acres of space, and despite Claudio Bravo’s best efforts, Aduriz found the net at the second time of asking to give his side an unassailable 5-1 aggregate lead.
Not even the sending off of substitute Enrique Sola late on could dampen the spirits of Bilbao, who celebrated their victory long after the final whistle as the home fans flocked out of the stadium disappointed at not seeing their side lift a sixth trophy of 2015.
But for me, it was a dream come true regardless of the outcome. Watching Barcelona at the Camp Nou is something every football fan should see and I am delighted to have ticked this particular experience off of my bucket list.
On the pitch, Barcelona won’t have to wait long for revenge on Athletic Bilbao as the two sides meet on Saturday for the opening game of the 2015/16 La Liga campaign, where Barca will be looking to defend the title they won last season.
Line-up: Bravo, Alves, Pique (RC), Mascherano, Mathieu, Busquets, Rakitic (Sandro ’68), Iniesta, Messi, Suarez, Pedro (Munir ’68)
Scorers: Messi ’44
Athletic Bilbao (1)
Line-up: Iraizoz, Boveda, Etxeita (Elustondo ’68), Laporte, Balenziaga, Gurpegui, Etxebarria (Rico ’82), De Marcos, Eraso, Susaeta, Aduriz (Sola ’79 (RC))
Scorers: Aduriz ’75
Date: 17th August 2015
Gallery: (click for larger images)