Central midfielder Riqui Puig took the final penalty kick in his shoulder to lift Barcelona over Real Sociedad in penalty scores, 3-2 in the Spanish Super Cup semifinals.
Puig Saves Barca from Possible Loss
Puig, who only played for the seventh time this season, surpassed everyone’s expectation of him being the “main man” of the final show. Coach Ronald Koeman knew that he needs to choose the best scorers in his team to edge Real Sociedad through a penalty shootout.
According to Goal, after Koeman had already decided four names who will kick the crucial penalties, the last kicker was still undecided at the moment. With no players who can be assigned to face the opposing net, Riqui volunteered to take the final shot with full confidence.
It was hard for Barca to escape with a win over Real Sociedad. The absence of Argentine star Lionel Messi plagued the team into jumbled obligations and assignments.
The 21-year-old Puig shook his coolness for the fifth and last penalty. After Riqui struck the ball, Real Sociedad goalkeeper Alex Remiro could not deflect the ball, before Puig ran to his teammates for a mission accomplished.
The last Barca player to miss the penalty was Antoine Griezmann who overextended his shot atop the net. Frenkie de Jong made the first penalty shot but Remiro drifted De Jong’s projectile away from the net.
According to Football Espana, it was Barcelona’s first penalty party since 1998. The equalizer nudged Real Sociedad and Barca to a 1-1 deadlock, which forced them to decide the winning team through penalties.
Barca keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen cemented his defense after diverting two penalties from Real.
De Jong initiated the first half with a 39-minute header goal after Griezmann and Martin Braithwaite connected a narrow dish for Barcelona’s first goal of the game. He might be the lone scorer for the Barca, but his blundered handball in the waxing moments of the second half cost them to pay a big price.
Michael Oryazabal of Real Sociedad cashed in his penalty kick to draw the score at 1-1.
Messi, who broke Pele’s record for the most club points scored in December 2020, was ruled out in the semifinals game of the Catalans. The 33-year-old presented signs of discomfort in his thigh so Koeman designated Braithwaite to take over Messi’s spot.
Barcelona’s Sergino Dest did not also play after declaring “not fully fit” against Sociedad. He was replaced by central defender Oscar Mingueza, Sky Sports reported.
Barcelona is now waiting for either Athletic Bilbao or Real Madrid, who will play the second semifinals.
Whoever wins on second semis will advance to the Supercopa de Espana finals on Sunday against Barca.
After the game, Koeman lauded the efforts of Puig, as well as Mingueza and Ronald Araujo, who were the youngest players in the team.
“Araujo has improved a lot in a short time, especially in how calm he is and his personality. He has also improved on the ball. He’s on a very good path, but he has to keep working. He’s the future of the club, like Mingueza,” Koeman ended.
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