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BFFs Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol celebrate this season's final victory

FC Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao faced off for the Copa del Rey final in the Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid today (not the larger Bernabeu, because Real Madrid are poor sports the bathrooms needed to be redecorated or something). Carles Puyol was out of the game following his recent knee surgery, and Dani Alves and his broken collarbone didn't even make it to Madrid, much less the bench. But that gave youngster Martin Montoya the opportunity to start as right back/winger, and although he wasn't a game-changer, he proved himself worthy of promotion to the first team. Most importantly, this was Pep Guardiola's final game with FC Barcelona, the languishing team he'd taken to 13 out of 16 trophies in four years.

The first half featured some of the most amazing football I've ever seen. I almost felt sorry for Athletic Bilbao as Barcelona ran them ragged, proving that a couple of weeks of rest had put our key players back in top form again, including Xavi Hernandez and Gerard Pique. Even with Copa keeper Pinto at first apparently playing for the wrong team - he kicked the ball out of bounds and passed it to the referee standing in a cluster of Athletic players, although eventually he did make an impressive save - the Basques didn't manage to score. Whereas Pedro Rodriguez, who has been struggling all season, scored a goal in the first three minutes, Lionel Messi followed it with a fantastic shot to the top of the net off an assist from Andres Iniesta, and Pedro then scored a second goal - leaving the game 3-0 before the 30 minute mark.

Pedro rejoices in his return to form

Iniesta throws himself into Messi's arms to celebrate their goal

After that, though, the pace slowed. Aside from a few scary moments for supporters of the Spanish National Team, when Xavi got kicked in the face, Sergio Busquets dropped to the ground, and Iniesta was fouled repeatedly by a player who seemed determined to rip his clothes off, nothing much happened. Still, it was great to see Pedro and also Pique playing a great game, hopefully guaranteeing that both of them will play for the Spain NT in the Euros after less than impressive performances earlier this season.

Once the final whistle blew, the lovefest began. The departing Pep hugged everyone on his team, everyone on the other team, all of the refs, the staff, anyone he could get his hands on, basically. The Barcelona players decorated their newest trophy with the jersey of teammate Eric Abidal, who has been recovering from a liver transplant after his cancer scare.

And, of course, there were locker room photos.

Leo's been working out, Man of the Masche, and that wacky Pinto

Victor Valdes deserves a trophy just for enduring the anxiety of watching Pinto play in his position

How sweet it is!

Now it's off to the Euros for many of the Spanish players from both teams, who will miss tomorrow's friendly game against Serbia due to the late date of this Copa final. We won't see our boys in blaugrana again until the start of next season - when hopefully they will all arrive well-rested, injury-free, and ready to reclaim the Spanish league.


May. 29th, 2012 02:08 am (UTC)
I've never even seen Fontas play! Do you think we'll keep him?

Hopefully Tito will be able to get Leo to rest as needed, doesn't seem like that would be the easiest thing ever.

Hahahaha, too right. I think that Tito's made of sterner stuff than most people give him credit for. It will be interesting to see how he handles this team.

I'm still holding out hope for a reprise of nearly naked Xavi.

OMG me too. I don't even know what it is about him, but damn.



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