Athletic Bilbao knock Barcelona out of Copa del Rey despite first goal for Ferran Torres

Nightmare season for Barca continues as defending champions are beaten 3-2 in extra-time and Fati picks up another injury

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Barcelona's miserable season continued on Thursday after they lost 3-2 to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey last 16, despite Ferran Torres scoring his first goal for the club.

Disappointment of the extra-time defeat for Barca was compounded when Ansu Fati was forced off the pitch in tears after suffering another injury blow in the second half at San Mames.

Fati only returned earlier this month after two months out with a hamstring problem, having also come back in September following 10 months out with a knee injury.

Another spell on the sidelines for Fati would be a huge blow to Barca's hopes of making La Liga's top four. Pedri also limped off in extra-time.

Barcelona had defeated Bilbao 4-0 in last season's final, Lionel Messi scoring twice and lifting his final trophy for the club.

“This has been hard. But we have to keep working and move on,” Torres said. "We will overcome this bad streak. I think we played well but made individual mistakes. We are on the right track and we have to congratulate Athletic.

“We have to keep working and the results will come. The season is complicated, but we have players to get it through and we’ll get it through.

“We are recovering people who had been injured for a long time. Ansu has relapsed again. We have to keep working and the results will come.”

Only 102 seconds had gone when Iker Muniain sent San Mames wild by collecting Nico Williams' cross at the back post, before turning curling home into the far corner.

But Barcelona were level in the 20th minute as Torres - signed from Manchester City for an initial fee of around €55 million in December - scored in similar fashion, shifting inside Oscar De Marcos and bending a shot into the top corner.

Inaki Williams hit the bar with a long-range effort late on but the real drama was still to come. Athletic thought they had won it in the 86th minute when Inigo Martinez prodded in at the back post ahead of the sliding Gerard Pique, with the goal given after a VAR check for offside.

Barcelona, though, found a way back three minutes into injury time, as Dani Alves bicycle-kicked Jordi Alba's cross back into the area and Pedri's hit on the stretch was too powerful for Julen Agirrezabala in the Bilbao goal.

Barca celebrated like it was the winner but there was extra-time to come — and the injuries to Fati and Pedri.

Then in the 103rd minute, a sliding Alba stopped Nico Williams' cross with his right arm and after consulting the replay, Jose Munuera pointed to the spot. Ter Stegen dived right, Muniain shot left.

“They have beaten us on intensity,” said manager Xavi Hernandez. “We have to change the dynamic because when it's heads or tails we always get tails. You have to work and be brave.”

Xavi's side trail leaders Real Madrid in La liga by 17 points and were recently beaten in the Spanish Super Cup semi-finals by their arch rivals.

Barcelona were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage and have suffered the ignomy of dropping down to the Europa League — which is now their only realistic hope of silverware this season.

The club is also strangled by a mountain of debts that resulted in Barca legend Messi being forced to leave pre-season and join Paris Saint-Germain.

Updated: January 21, 2022, 7:35 AM
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