Barca Nepal, March 8. Jasper Cillessen was the hero as Barcelona beat Espanyol 4-2 on penalties on Wednesday to lift the Catalan Super Cup, exacting revenge for last season’s defeat against the same opponent.
Cillessen was famously taken off by Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal before a penalty shootout at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but he stayed on against Espanyol to save from Jose Manuel Jurado and seal the win.
The game had ended goalless, with Cillessen the busier of the two goalkeepers throughout the 90 minutes. Pau Lopez had little to do in the Espanyol goal before making late saves from Paco Alcacer and Aleix Vidal.
Alcacer, Sergi Palencia, Yerry Mina and Abel Ruiz all delivered from 12 yards for an experimental Barca side, while Sergi Darder had already fired over for the Pericos when Jurado saw his spot kick saved.
However, there was also bad news for Barcelona, who lost Denis Suarez to a groin injury in the first half. The midfielder will undergo tests at the club’s training ground on Thursday to discover the extent of the knock.
Coach Ernesto Valverde may prefer to look at the positives, though, such as a first-team debut for midfielder Marcus McGuane, who came on for the final 20 minutes.
McGuane, a January signing from Arsenal, becomes the first Englishman to represent Barca since Gary Lineker left the club almost 30 years ago.
There was also 90 minutes for January signing Mina in the middle of the defence, while Ousmane Dembele played for over an hour as he continues to get up to speed after recovering from a second hamstring injury.
The French international showed flashes of why Barca paid €105 million for him last summer but struggled to impose himself on a game shaded by Espanyol.
Pablo Piatti, Adria Pedrosa and Alex Lopez had good chances for Quique Sanchez Flores’ side but were all denied by the in-form Cillessen.
Barca, who were without 14 members of their regular first team squad, including Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho, didn’t even have a shot on target until the final 20 minutes.
Alcacer fired over when clean through after just two minutes but had to wait until the final 20 minutes to finally test Lopez, his header well saved. Lopez also stopped a decent Vidal strike.
With no extra time, the game went straight to penalties to decide who would be crowned the champions of Catalonia.
After Darder had blazed over, the pressure was always on Espanyol and the game was up when Cillessen dived to his right, beating Jurado’s penalty away as Barca won the trophy for the first time since 2014.