Barcelona stumbled to a new setback in their troubled week as Inaki Williams’ header in added time dumped last season’s beaten finalists out of the Copa del Rey.
A hard-fought quarter-final appeared destined for extra time until Williams applied enough of a touch to Ibai Gomez’s inswinging cross from the right flank to send the ball beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen and into the net.
The winner in the third minute of stoppage time saw Athletic through to the last four and, with Real Madrid surprisingly beaten at home by Real Sociedad just hours earlier, it means neither of Spain’s two heavyweight clubs are left standing.
Lionel Messi, who had made the headlines in the lead-up to the game for criticising director of football Eric Abidal, had Barca’s best chance, only to be denied by Unai Simon’s outstretched left leg late in the second half.
The Athletic goalkeeper had also denied substitute Antoine Griezmann but, for the first time in seven seasons, the Catalan club will not be involved in the final of the competition.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Athletic Bilbao (3-4-3): Simon; Alvarez, Nunez, Martinez; Garcia, Vesga (San Jose 66), Capa, Berchiche; Garcia (Gomez 89), Williams, Muniain (Aduriz 77)
Subs not used: Ezkieta, Lekue, Villalibre, Larrazabal
Booked: Alvarez, Vesga
Goals: Williams (90+3)
Barcelona (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique Umtiti 80), Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic (Arthur 69), Busquets, de Jong; Roberto, Messi, Fati (Griezmann 57)
Subs not used: Vidal, Pena, Firpo, Collado
Booked: Semedo, Alba, Messi, de Jong, Pique, Arthur
Red Cards: Gorosabel (90+5)
Instead Athletic Bilbao keeper Iñaki Simon saved with his legs and Messi was left with his head in his hands.
There was one bullet left in the chamber for Athletic, and Williams, who had wasted their best chances on the night, did not miss dumping Barça out of the cup.
Barcelona came into the game after a troubled few days with Messi calling out Sporting Director Eric Abidal. The team put training ground unrest and boardroom tension behind them.
Their was even a return to the pre-match huddle that had been missing in their last two games.
But the unity was not enough because Athletic had that too, and they had Williams who was almost in tears in his post-match interview. ‘This is the reward for everything we gave tonight,’ he said.
Barça coach Quique Setien had left Antoine Griezmann on the bench and Messi was playing through the middle flanked by Sergio Roberto and Anus Fati.
It wasn’t long before Messi was running from the red and white striped hoards releasing Fati who couldn’t finish.
However, it was Athletic who carried the greater threat before the break. Williams correctly had a close-range finish from a corner ruled out for offside, while Dani Garcia saw a rising shot drift narrowly wide after Barca lost possession near their own penalty area.
Barca did improve in the second half yet failed to capitalise on their opportunities as they controlled possession.
The normally reliable Messi was unable to provide the finish to Arthur’s throughball, and the let-off allowed Athletic to snatch the win thanks to Williams’ dramatic intervention at the other end.