Pep Guardiola's era is officially over. With our 3-0 in the final of the Copa del Rey against Athletic Bilbao we have ended the season on a high note. It was the 14th title in four unforgettable years under the coaching of Pep Guardiola. This victory has enabled Barcelona fans to put the devastation of the Champions League against Chelsea behind us. There is no better way to end a season than by winning a final, even if it was not the final we really wanted.
The victory ensured that the Guardiola era ended in the same manner that it had started. Pep's first honour as Barcelona manager was a Cup Final win against Athletic Bilbao as was his 14th title out of a possible nineteen. Apart from two very unfortunate UCL semi final eliminations by teams who gave masterclasses in negative anti-football, it has been a period of total glory and joy for Barcelona fans. The Pep team has its place in football history.
The game against Athletic Bilbao never really reached any great heights, The game was as one-sided as the score suggests. Two well taken first half goals by Pedro either side of Lionel Messi's 73rd goal of the season ensured that there was only ever going to be one winner. Hopefully, Pedro's goals will prelude a return next season to the clinical finishing of previous years.
The class in the Barcelona team is such that, if everyone does their job and goal scoring chances are taken, games are usually won. That is what happened in this game. Apart from the return to goal scoring form by Pedro, I was very pleased with the performances of several other players. Javier Mascherano showed why he is our Minister of Defence consistently breaking up Bilbao threats and then initiating our attacks. He was well supported by Gerard Pique who showed glimpses of his true world class ability. Martin Montoya showed that he will be ready for more regular duty next season at right fullback especially if Dani Alves leaves (which I hope he does not).
While I was delighted that we won, I actually felt quite a lot of sympathy for Bilbao's passionate fans. There is a naturally empathy between Barcelona and Bilbao supporters, especially in our mutual loathing of Real Madrid. I had the pleasure of meeting some Bilbao fans while I was in London earlier this year and they were wonderful company. I would have loved it had they won the Europa League Final to enable them to break a long trophy drought. Bilbao is to be congratulated for a great season and the fine football the team has played.
In conclusion, Barcelona has ended the 2011/12 season with four trophies although the first three pertain more to last season than this one. One cannot by truly satisfied with a season where we did not win either La Liga or the Champions League. The elimination by Chelsea will always be a very bad memory. However, winning the Copa del Rey makes this season a success, not as successful as we would have liked but still a success.
To win a country's major knockout competion is always a fine achievement.
It also sets up another Clasico Spanish Supercup.
I am aleady looking forward to that!
Posted by: Drago , Columnist at 'Culé Talk'