You join the BigBarcelonaBlog live at the Vincente Calderon Stadium. Well, alright you join us live in front of the telly where the BigBarcelonaBlog attempts to do live football reporting for the first time. Expect typos. Expect grammatical errors. Do not expect the Spanish Inquisition. Unless obviously Barcelona lose in which case it will be the Spanish post-match inquisition with expert analysis from Torquemada Hansen and Torquemada Lawrenson..
To set the scene. Barcelona might finish the season without winning a major domestic Spanish trophy. This is about as unthinkable as death in the mind of someone living. Atletico Bilbao might also finish the season without winning a major domestic trophy which is about as unthinkable as cheese on toast i.e. fairly thinkable as far as the BigBarcelonaBlog is concerned.
The trophy up for grabs is the Copa Del Rey (obviously if you’ve been following Spanish news you’ll know that the trophy the king is most likely to provide would be a elephant’s foot or the skin of a hapless lion mercilessly shot on a swanky Botswana safari while his subjects deal with 50% youth unemployment and crushing austerity. Just saying.). Barca have been the all-conquering best team in the world over the last few years but Atletico Bilbao have an exciting young group of players that have thrilled neutrals as they swaggered to the final of the Europa league. Madrid have taken La liga from Barca. Could these young pretenders take the cup?
The Vincente Calderon stadium was a passionate…er…cauldron (sorry couldn’t help it – what am I going to say frying pan?) as the two teams took to the field. This is unusual for Spain where large numbers fans from both teams being present is a bit of a rarity. The Atletico fans in particular took the opportunity to do a lot of singing.
Then the whistle blew.
But it could as easily have been a bell tolling.
It didn’t take long for Barcleona to find their attacking rhythm, Messi almost from the kick off running dangerously at the defence and shooting just wide. Moments later they forced a corner. Unusually swung in long, it ricocheted loose in the box and Pedro pounced like a predatory panther in Paraguay (alright I’m gambling here for the sake of alliteration). 1-0 Barca! The firecrackers were going off outside the BigBarcelonaBlog’s flat. And back in the Basque country they were already starting to think that when Barcelona start scoring from scrappy set-pieces things could get really bad when they start with the tiki-taka.
So it proved. Barcelona monopolised possession. Iniesta picked out a perfect through ball and Messi from a narrow angle blasted the ball in to the top corner at the near post.
A third goal was not long in arriving. Pique passed to Xavi on the edge of the area. He laid the ball back to Pedro who with perfect precision (look at this alliteration go! It’s a good thing he’s not called Zedro that would be harder) curled it into the bottom left hand corner.
The game essentially ended there. Atletico kept trying but the last time a team came back to beat Barcelona from 3-0 down the ref had received a menacing halftime phone call from General Franco. They mixed in their trying with some unpleasant fouls and the odd flailing elbow. Which was to be expected but was still disappointing. What was also to be expected but was the opposite of disappointing was that Messi would run through the entire Bilbao defence about four times - one mazy dribble from the halfway line saw him avoid at least two potentially leg-breaking challenges before pausing for a second, realizing his body was miraculously still intact, and then firing a low shot towards the far corner which the keeper did very well to keep out with his legs.
The clock ran down. The whistle blew. The cup was Barca’s. It was a fitting way for Pep Guardiola to finish his final game. With Xavi and probably the greatest side to ever play football holding yet another trophy aloft.