For the first time, Lionel Messi was sent off playing for Barcelona as Athletic Bilbao shocked the Catalans to lift Sunday’s Spanish Super Cup, a dramatic 3-2 final after extra time.
Messi flung an arm at Asier Villalibre, who had earlier scored a 90th-minute equalizer in normal time to deny Barca victory, moments before Bilbao’s momentous triumph was confirmed.
The double of Antoine Griezmann looked to have sealed the trophy but Villalibre intervened before the fabulous strike of Inaki Williams three minutes into extra time proved decisive.
To start in Seville, Messi shook off a thigh problem and was required to play all 120 minutes as Barcelona tried to take the game to penalties.
Instead, at the end of a combative match, the 33-year-old lost his cool, responding to a late challenge from Villalibre by swiping his hands across his opponent’s back.
This meant Messi’s first-ever red card for Barcelona in 753 games, to go with his two reds for Argentina in 2005 and 2019.
“After so many years in football, Leo knows perfectly well when he is fit to play,” Barca coach Ronald Koeman said.
“We talked and he said he was in a good place to start. He has survived the game, given the maximum, nothing more.”
Messi’s indignation would take some of the limelight away from Bilbao, who had already denied a Clasico final of the competition by beating Real Madrid on Thursday in the semi and now finished the package.
For Marcelino Garcia Toral, who only took over as coach less than two weeks ago, it means a title and the perfect start.
But there was also support for his predecessor, Gaizka Garitano, who supervised this team reaching last season’s Copa del Rey final, securing the first-place qualification.
“This is for Gaizka Garitano and his coaching staff, who brought us here, too.
The Spanish Football Federation’s organizers would have hoped for a Clasico’s worldwide appeal, especially since the coronavirus pandemic had already held the tournament in Spain rather than the lucrative Saudi Arabia, where it was played last year.
Yet, with an incredibly shocking outcome, this was a frantic final.