The latter won out. Athletic were the better side throughout the game and earned a magnificent victory to start the Marcelino era with a bang. They twice came from a goal behind to win 3-2.
Marcelino was, unsurprisingly, in high spirits in post-match comments carried by Marca. “I’ve been in Bilbao for only a short time, but the truth is that it’s been productive,” he said.
“The credit goes to the players who, with the work they put in last year, deserve to be here. And they won two games to be champions against Real Madrid and Barcelona. I’d also like to remember Aritz Aduriz, Mikel San Jose and Benat Etxebarria, players here last season, as well as the coaching staff, of course.
“We came with all the humility in the world to work – taking advantage of what was done before while trying to install concepts that we want to add.
“[The players] are like sponges, and it’s incredible how they fight and work. [Us as a coaching staff] are very proud and enjoy working with them because they make it so easy for us.”
Griezmann got his and Barcelona’s second as the game entered its final stages. Alba played a smart one-two with Ousmane Dembele before crossing for the French striker, who finished coolly to get Catalan noses in front.
There was to be a late twist in the tale, however – Athletic got back on level terms. Muniain whipped in another quality delivery to find Asier Villalibre, who smashed the ball into the back of the net to take the game to extra-time.
Los Leones scored another in the first-half of extra-time to take the lead. Muniain was involved again, feeding the ball to Inaki Williams, but this was very much an individual goal. Williams cut inside on his right foot before unleashing a stunning strike into the top right corner, giving Ter Stegen no chance.
Insult was added to injury for Barcelona late on when Messi was sent off for the first time in his club career. The Argentine was caught punching Villalibre in the back of the head by a VAR review and was subsequently shown red.