Marc-Andre ter Stegen was once Barcelona’s hero as he saved two penalties in a shootout to take them past Real Sociedad and into the last of the Spanish Super Cup.
In an evenly fought first half it was once Barcelona who made the many of the chance that came their way, Frenkie De Jong superbly reaching backwards to flick Antoine Griezmann’s header beyond Alex Remiro.
Though it certainly shouldn’t take absent from what was once an excellent performance by the Dutchman, De Jong would in the long run have a sizeable hand in Real Sociedad drawing level as a cross from the left flank hit his trailing hand. Mikel Oyarzabal made no mistake from the spot, bringing the game into a state of parity it would remain in until the shootout though the introduction of Adnan Januzaj brought life to the closing minutes of the contest.
Twice it appeared the former Manchester United prospect might win the tie for La Real, first when he forced an excellent one-handed stop from Ter Stegen and then when his 119th minute free-kick hammered back off the crossbar.
In a remarkably low quality shootout De Jong, Griezmann and Willian Jose all missed the target but Ter Stegen made two superb saves from penalty specialists Jon Bautista and Oyarzabal to protected a 3-2 win for Barcelona in the shootout and passage to the last, where they’ll play the winner of Thursday’s match between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.
De Jong and Pedri take on Messi burden
Naturally Barcelona missed Lionel Messi just as any team would overlook the greatest player of his generation, especially when his replacement Martin Braithwaite isn’t even the greatest Danish striker of his generation (Nicklas Bendtner is only three years older). To be reasonable to Braithwaite he showed good movement to dart to the front post and meet a cross from the correct wing, flashing a header just wide.
In Messi’s absence what Barcelona needed was once some semblance of the link play that he provides between midfield and attack. Again there are no players who do what the Argentine does but whether you were picking a player who might theoretically have the ability to replicate probably the most greatest player on the earth’s role, Griezmann might be that man. But for too much of the first half he was once too distant from the action, leaving the burden on youngsters Pedri and De Jong
There were the slightest of flashes, occasions where Griezmann flexed his creative muscles and he ended up with an assist for De Jong even though the cross asked an excessive amount of the Dutch midfielder, but actually it was once the midfielders who rose to the occasion. Pedri in specific gave the impression to relish the burden to receive Barcelona ticking. At times he seemed made up our minds to attract pressure his way just so he could whip it and get his team-mates attacking a disorganized defense.
De Jong, meantime, looks an altogether more dynamic player than the person who shone at Ajax as a deeper author. Here he was once driving beyond Brathwaite in exceptional fashion, especially in the 52nd minute when he showed a smart turn of pace to drive into the box. It took a superb recovery tackle from Andoini Gorosabel to disclaim him a penalty. Indeed, so good was once the recovery that he if truth be told managed to earn La Real a free-kick. It was once a infrequent occasion where the team in blue and white got the better of De Jong.
Oyarzabal’s penalty hot streak iced
Inevitably there are few better opportunities to score than from a penalty for reasons that obviously should not have explaining. Then again, at some stage even the most productive are meant to overlook. Not Oyarzabal, who extended his hot streak to 17 from 17 as he sent Ter Stegen the incorrect way with an impudence that appears to be tempting destiny against probably the most best goalkeepers on this planet.
And yet why shouldn’t Oyarzabal approach his spot kicks with a bit of swagger? Not only does he have the track record to match it but all the way through this semifinal it was once lucid that he was once in the zone. A 50 yard drive early in the first half set Alexander Isak up for a fine chance that took good goalkeeping from Ter Stegen to disclaim him. The young Swedish striker was once relishing the opportunities given for him by Oyarzabal and it took one of several excellent interventions from Ronald Araujo to disclaim him just before the half hour.
Isak was once not alone as Oyarzabal laid on an early chance for Portu whilst creating a shot from himself. Just as Barcelona had needed key players to step up in Messi’s absence so was once there greater pressure on La Real’s forwards to fend for themselves. The captain on the night stepped up in superb fashion.
Strictly speaking the 23-year-old’s hot streak remains intact – efforts in shootouts do not count towards statistics – but it was once as strong an indication of Ter Stegen’s excellence both tonight and all the way through recent seasons that the German managed to disclaim this penalty taker par excellence. Oyarzabal’s penalty was once not so good as his effort in normal time but it still took each and every inch of the German’s giant frame to disclaim him, an effort that gave the impression to spook Willian Jose, who went too far wide with his spot kick and hit the post.
Ronald Araujo: For only some million dollars Barcelona look to have found a very solid center back in the 21-year-old Uruguayan, who excelled in the second one half when he dropped in at the back of to snuff out the danger on multiple occasion. RATING: 8
Nacho Monreal: He turns 35 next month and it is almost two years since he was once moved on by an Arsenal hierarchy that thought his legs were approximately to go. There are few more effective ways to prove them incorrect than holding Ousmane Dembele at bay into additional time and leading his team in tackles with five after 110 minutes. RATING: 8