European Roundup: Athletic Club beat Barcelona after Messi sent off, Liverpool keeps it clean as Allison shut down United best effort

Just about 72 hours from when Athletic Club sink Real Madrid in a 2-1 win in the Spanish Super Cup semi final; in the same frame time from when Ter Stegen heroic saves guided Barcelona to the final after piping Real Sociedad 3-2 on penalties, the two teams locked horns in what later amounted to a classic final seeking to claim their first silverware of the season. Barcelona — who not only aimed to clinch their first title of the ongoing campaign but also end an over 18-month trophy drought — opened the contest in a high flying form.

As part of differentia of an elite team, Barcelona enjoyed possession, dictating the proceedings at the central area, creating openings only for them to fall short of clinicality on goal. It therefore took the Catalan giants 40 minutes to go front in Seville with Antonnie Griezmann pouncing on an uncleared ball at the danger area to slot home from 12 yards out. But the lead was short-lived thanks to Oscar de Marcos who tapped in an in-swinging cross from Inaki Williams to level the game 3 minutes from stoppage time in the opening half.

Barcelona continued dominance at the restart of the second half and it soon paid off as Antonnie Griezmann grabbed his brace and Barcelona’s second of the night courtesy of a slick football play from the Catalans, allowing Jordi Alba to square the ball into the path of the forward who converted with the easiest of tappings. With time ebbing away in Seville, Athletic Bilbao restored parity late on with their last-ditch effort on goal in the last minute to send the game into extra time much thanks to Asier Villabre who reacted quickest to meet Iker Munian’s long ball into the opponent box.

Barcelona were stunned, an unprecedented turn of events in a contest going their way up until the closing minute. But that would not be the Spanish Giant only nightmare as the moment that ultimately won the match fell at the hands of Athletic Bilbao. This time it was Inaki Williams producing the icing on the cake. Iker Munian found Inaki Williams at the edge of the area, and from such an implausible position, he cuts into his right to hit an unstoppable shot which flies through the air and rockets into the net. At the end of an exhausting, exhilarating 120 minutes the exited match winner said: “without doubt the best goal of my career.” However, the frustration filled in the nerves of Barcelona players exacerbated the situation.

Messi unable to conceal his resentment indulged in a violent conduct on Asier Villalibre. Upon the completion of a VAR check, the Barcelona’s starman was shown a red card — his first for the club. In the end, a deserved victory for Athletic, for their resoluteness and fighting spirit steered them to come from behind twice and steal the show ultimately.
As for Barcelona, this may be the least of trophies they chase but it was the most likely and this was a failure and a painful one. Premier League as usual came with all it allures on matchday 18 but it cutthroat nature seized not to exist.

In England, The eagerly anticipated and supposedly exited encounter between one of the greatest league rival, Liverpool and Manchester United — who prior to the contest sat at the 1st and 2nd spot on the league standings — had no excitement at all. Caginess characterized the contest in which play from both side rarely surpassed the prosaic. A tension-filled Liverpool and Manchester United — knowing the implications of a loss in a match that can go a long way in determining their fate in the league campaign — meticulously played each other, were unwilling to be defenseless against errors and remained compact and composed throughout the nineties.

The aftermath of the attitudes of both team neither resulted in a win, nor a loss but, rather, a stalemate draw; one that is nether a bad result for Ole Gunnar Solksjear and United as they remain top of the summit. No sooner had the game started than United had couple of gilt edge chances. First, a Bruno Fernandes freekick shaved the outside of the framework, shortly after, the highly prolific Portuguese man got into shooting range only for his shot to be too tame, lacking enough incision to beat a well placed Allison Becker. Midway through the second half, the best chance of the game came the Red Devils way when Paul Pogba was offered a glorious opening to wrap up maximum point for United at Anfield. A squared ball from Luke Shaw on the left flank fell at the feet of Bruno in the danger area, the midfielder with acres of spaces at his disposal made full mess of the ball, shooting straight at the hands of Liverpool’s shot stopper. Elsewhere in England, Manchester City’s assist king Kevin de Bruyne keeps delivering.

The Belgian notched his 100th assist for the Citizens in a match against Crystal Palace on Sunday, swinging an inch-perfect cross in to allow John Stones to head home his first league goal for the club. A comfortable 4-0 victory for City over the Eagles lifted them to the 2nd spot on the log, trailing United by 2 points with a game in hand. An exquisite John Stones brace and a goal apiece for Ikay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling sealed the deal for Pep Guardiola’s side at Ethihad Stadium.

An elated Guardiola at full time heaped praises over the impressive John Stones in these words: ” If there is only one player I am more pleased that everything is going well, it’s John Stones. He is playing because he deserves it.” A delighted Stones said, ” my last (league) goal was against Man United at Goodison ( for Everton in 2015), I was 19 — too long. I would have loved a third.”

Mason Mount’s goal returned Chelsea to winning ways following an unconvincing run of form in recent weeks that saw them drop far from the top four categories as his goal secured 3 points for the Blues in a hard-fought derby win over 10-man Fulham. Tanguy Ndombele’s moment of magic caps Tottenham win at Sheffield United. Minutes after Spurs two-goal lead had just been halved by David McGoldrick, Bergwijn and Tanguy Ndombele carved out something special, incredible. A floated return pass from Bergwijn dropped in front of Ndombele in tight angle in the opponent box, but in an unbelievable and almost improbable manner, Ndombele improvised the exact technique to arc a delicate, perfectly directed lob over the scrambling Aaron Ramsdale. A stunning goal it would be: one that the contest will be best remembered for.

Also, Leicester City sank Southampton in a 2-0 victory at King Power Stadium to cement their top-four place. With the return of key players like Ricardo Pereira and Caglar Soyuncu from injuries, the squad depth of the foxes has been enhanced and as such, Brendan Rodgers is confident that his team is now endowed with the experience, maturity and strength in depth to avoid a similar drop-off to last season.

” If you look at the team a year on, we’ve made developments both tactically and also from a mentality stance. That’s just maturity. It’s important you learn from mistakes but the biggest common denominator in our drop-off at the end of last season was we were missing our best players without that depth of squad.”

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