Lionel Messi was heavily involved in the Spanish Super Cup final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao but it ended bitterly for him as he received a red card for the first time in his football career at Barca.
The 33-year-old Argentine football icon was expected to captain Barcelona to win the Spanish Super Cup trophy against Athletic Bilbao which knocked out the immediate past champions of the competition, Real Madrid, in the semifinals. Unfortunately for the 6 times Ballon d’Or winner, he was on the pitch when his team gave the lead away twice.
Barcelona started like a team that was ready to go all the way after scoring in the 40th minute through the boots of Antoine Griezmann. Two minutes later, Athletic Bilbao equalized through a strike from Oscar De Marcos.
The first half of the match ended 1-1 and FC Barcelona returned in the second half to take the lead in the 77th minute through Griezmann’s strike. At that point, it was looking like Barcelona had won the Spanish Super Cup but it wasn’t to be as Asier Villalibre’s 90-minute goal spoilt Barcelona’s party.
Villalibre’s goal forced the game into extra-time and in the first three minutes into extra-time, Inaki William scored a heartbreaking goal to give Athletic Bilbao the victory.
At the tail end of the extra-time, Lionel Messi who seemingly looked frustrated for not being able to have his way on the pitch lashed out at Athletic Bilbao’s Villalibre, and referee Jesus Gil Manzano shown Messi the red card after consulting the Video Assistant Referee.
With Messi out of the game, Barcelona’s coach Ronald Koeman could not perform any miracle than to fall with his team 3-2 in the hands of a more compact and determined Athletic Bilbao’s side.
After the defeat, Koeman who seemed unhappy about the officiating of referee Jesus Gil Manzano said he was not going to comment on the officiating, and noted that many fouls were committed on Messi which did not attract enough punishment.
“It’s better if I don’t talk,” Koeman said. “It’d just be repeating things and I don’t like doing that. I’m not going to give my opinion.
“I understand what [Messi] did [at the red card]. I don’t know how many fouls they committed against him. He tries to dribble and can’t. “Do I forgive him? I need to see the incident.”
Lionel Messi was not expected to play in the Spanish Super Cup final because he missed the semi-final due to fitness issues less than a week before the final. Hence, it was suspected that the 33-year-old was not fit enough for the final and should not have been selected for the game.
In defense of that, Koeman said: “After so many years, he knows when he can play and when he can’t. He decided to play and that’s it.”