Ronald Koeman could use the Supercopa de Espana to win his first title as Barcelona coach, and will at least contest his first final in the competition after his team edged past Real Sociedad in Cordoba this evening in the first semi-final.
The Blaugrana opened the scoring in the first half before conceding in the second, but managed to win their first penalty shoot-out since 1998 after extra-time kept them at 1-1.
Barcelona took the lead in the 39th minute, and it was one of the young players who’s really stepped up in recent weeks, Frenkie de Jong, who pulled the trigger. Antoine Griezmann squared for the Dutch midfielder, whose header arced past La Real’s goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
De Jong turned from hero to villain, however, shortly after the second half got underway. He handled the ball in the box to concede a penalty that La Real’s captain and talisman Mikel Oyarzabal was never going to miss.
Neither team could find a winner as the 90 minutes reached its end and then throughout extra-time, although Marc-Andre ter Stegen was on hand to pull of a number of truly outstanding saves to keep Barcelona in the game.
The German goalkeeper was the hero in the penalty shoot-out, too, as the Blaugrana won 3-2. Mikel Merino and Adnan Januzaj scored for La Real, but Jon Bautista, Oyarzabal and Willian Jose all failed to score.
De Jong and Griezmann missed for Barcelona but Ousmane Dembele, Miralem Pjanic and Riqui Puig all converted to send Barcelona through to Sunday’s final against either Real Madrid or Athletic Club Bilbao, who play tomorrow night.
Speaking post-match, Puig, who scored Barcelona’s winning penalty, was unsurprisingly delighted, and the youngster had a surprising revelation in store in comments carried by Marca.
“There were four names and a blank space,” Puig said post-game in relation to who was going to take the penalties. “I was the first to say that I wanted to take it. I had it very clear, with a lot of desire to shoot and be able to score a goal with the first team.”
Puig has had a difficult season, with Koeman repeatedly saying that the Catalan doesn’t fit into his plans at the moment and should go on loan to gain first-team experience.
“I’ve never lost my smile,” Puig said. “I’m a pretty happy kid, that even though I don’t play things are going very well for me. I have family, health and I can’t complain at all.
“If Ronald gives me minutes I will be grateful and take advantage of it. If not, I’ll continue working. I’ll never throw in the towel, not after so many years at the club, knowing how much it has cost me to get to the first team. Now that I’m here I’m not going to throw it away.”