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Pep Guardiola's swansong as Barcelona's manager couldn't have been written better as the Catalans brushed aside Athletic Bilbao 3-0 in the Copa Del Rey final at the Vicente Calderon in Madrid. The Basques were blown away by a first half blitz that saw Barca race into a 3-0 lead by the 25th minute. Pedro opened the scoring after just 3 minutes before Lionel Messi added a 2nd on 20 minutes. Pedro then doubled his tally and put Barca into a commanding three-goal lead by the 25th minute. Bilbao struggled get back into the game after that and just like the Europa League final a few weeks back they were disappointed runners-up as Barca collected their 26th Copa Del Rey trophy.
Marcelo Bielsa stuck with the tried and tested 4-3-3 formation for the final as Fernando Llorente led the line, with Iker Muniain and Markel Susaeta flanking him. Javi Martinez was the commanding presence in midfield and he was ably supported by Oscar de Marcos and Ibai Gomez. At the back, the central pair of Borja Ekiza and Fernando Amorebieta were aided in the wide areas by Andoni Iraola and Jon Aurtenetxe.
The continued absence of Carles Puyol and Dani Alves meant another start for Martin Montoya at right-back, with Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano in the middle while Adriano was positioned on the left. The midfield trio and the front three were filled by the usual faces as Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets held together the midfield while Pedro, Alexis Sanchez and Messi formed the menacing attack. Victor Valdez was on the bench once again as Jose Pinto continued to get some game time in this competition.
The night began in ominous fashion for Bilbao as the Barca bombardment began early. Before the fans had a chance to get comfortable in their seats, two dangerous shots had already whizzed by Gorka Irazoiz's post. The first came courtesy of Messi while Pedro then had his shot deflected wide. But the Spaniard wouldn't be denied for too long as he broke the deadlock on three minutes with a left-footed finish from inside the box after a corner was poorly defended by Bilbao. The ball fell kindly to Pedro just around the penalty spot and he fired it past Irazoiz to set the ball rolling.
Irazoiz was a busy man in the Bilbao goal as he produced a superb save to deny Messi's top-corner bound strike. But, like Pedro, the Argentine wasn't kept quiet for too long as he doubled the tally on 20 minutes with a right-footed finish from a tight angle on the right. Iniesta threaded a perfectly weighted through ball for Messi, who let it run across before finishing high into the net.
Five minutes later, Pedro got his 2nd of the night as he curled Xavi's lay-off at the edge of the box into the far corner with a sweet finish- game, set and match. Bilbao did muster somewhat of a response as Susaeta forced Pinto into a save in the latter part of the 1st half. Athletic then had legitimate calls for a penalty and a possible sending off as Pique clearly brought down Llorente. But despite being the last man and preventing the striker from going clean through, Pique wasn't punished.
Barca were in cruise mode in the 2nd half as they eased through the 45 minutes. Messi continued to be the danger man as he went close to adding to his incredible tally of 73 goals this season. Bilbao did manage to test Pinto with a couple of shots but the Catalans comfortably held on for the win.
The 14th trophy of the Guardiola era signifies the end of a glorious period for Barca as their most successful manager steps down. The disappointments in the La Liga and the Champions League will hurt the proud Catalans but they have still managed to pick up trophies this season. as for Bilbao, they have enthralled the neutrals with their approach all season and although both of their final appearances ended in defeat, Bielsa has the makings of a very good squad.
Athletic Bilbao: Iraizoz; Iraola, Ekkiza, Amorebieta, Aurtenetxe; De Marcos (Herrera 46'), Javi Martinez, Ibai; Susaeta (Perez 46'), Llorente (Toquero 73'), Muniain
Subs: Raul, Toquero, San Jose, Gabilondo, Inigo Perez, Gurpegi, Ander Herrera
Barcelona: Pinto; Montoya, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano; Busquets, Xavi (Fabregas 81'), Iniesta; Pedro (Thiago 87'), Alexis (Keita 71'), Messi
Subs: Valdes, Bartra, Thiago, Keita, Afellay, Fabregas, Tello
Final Score: Athletic Bilbao 0-3 Barcelona (Pedro 3', 25', Messi 20')
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