BILBAO, Spain (Reuters) – Barcelona, the 30-time record winner, lost 1-0 to Inaki Williams at Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.
Athletic Bilbao players celebrate after the REUTERS / Vincent West match
Spanish striker Williams looked in the lower corner to trigger cheering scenes in a rocky San Mames stadium, and remembered Aritz Aduriz’s goal in added time in Athletic's 1-0 home win against Barca on first matchday of the league.
In the semi-final draw on Friday, they will face Real Sociedad, Granada and second division Mirandes. Real Madrid, Barca and Atletico Madrid have been absent for the first time in 17 years.
The defeat caused the Catalans even more suffering in a difficult week for Barca. Captain Lionel Messi spoke out against sports director Eric Abidal, and striker Ousmane Dembele suffered a thigh injury for the rest of the season.
Barca's defender Gerard Pique said the team needed to show consensus and not fight, adding that the performance, if not the result, proved that they had strayed from the saga.
"Now is not the time to air our dirty laundry. I can only say that we have 100% confidence in ourselves and we are happy with how we played today and how we reacted to all these sounds," he said ,
"It is very difficult to be eliminated, but we can do a lot of positive things about the game."
Coach Quique Setien said he was injured by the knockdown, but was happy with the ad.
"Everything went well today except for the result," he said. "We have taken a step forward and I am satisfied with many things, I don't just look at the result."
Messi missed the visitors a glorious late opportunity when in the second half he could only shoot at the legs of athletic keeper Unai Simon and his striker colleague Antoine Griezmann.
The game seemed to go into extra time when Williams missed a gold-rimmed chance, but he remedied it by hitting a cross from Ibai Gomez in the third minute of added time.
"I lack the words you should never lose faith," Williams told reporters. "The fans deserve this moment after supporting us in this way, and I hope now that we can make the dream we all have come true by winning it."
The victory must have felt like a salvation for Athletic, who was knocked out of the cup by Barca in 2017 and 2016 and lost to her in 2009, 2012 and 2015.
The Catalans have played in the last six finals but have joined Real Madrid after Zinedine Zidane's team had been beaten 4-3 by Real Sociedad the previous Thursday. [nL8N2A68A9]
Richard Martin reporting in Barcelona; Edited by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond