Koeman on whether Messi will be fit for Sunday’s final: “Hopefully. I don’t know. We have to wait.”

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Football Espana

Article image: Koeman on whether Messi will be fit for Sunday’s final: “Hopefully. I don’t know. We have to wait.”

Ronald Koeman could use the Supercopa de Espana to win his first title as Barcelona coach, and will at least contest his first final in the competition after his team edged past Real Sociedad in Cordoba this evening in the first semi-final.

The Blaugrana opened the scoring in the first half before conceding in the second, but managed to win their first penalty shoot-out since 1998 after extra-time kept them at 1-1.

Barcelona took the lead in the 39th minute, and it was one of the young players who’s really stepped up in recent weeks, Frenkie de Jong, who pulled the trigger. Antoine Griezmann squared for the Dutch midfielder, whose header arced past La Real’s goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

De Jong turned from hero to villain, however, shortly after the second half got underway. He handled the ball in the box to concede a penalty that La Real’s captain and talisman Mikel Oyarzabal was never going to miss.

Neither team could find a winner as the 90 minutes reached its end and then throughout extra-time, although Marc-Andre ter Stegen was on hand to pull of a number of truly outstanding saves to keep Barcelona in the game.

The German goalkeeper was the hero in the penalty shoot-out, too, as the Blaugrana won 3-2. Mikel Merino and Adnan Januzaj scored for La Real, but Jon Bautista, Oyarzabal and Willian Jose all failed to score.

De Jong and Griezmann missed for Barcelona but Ousmane Dembele, Miralem Pjanic and Riqui Puig all converted to send Barcelona through to Sunday’s final against either Real Madrid or Athletic Club Bilbao, who play tomorrow night.

Koeman, speaking post-game in comments carried by Marca, was happy with his team’s performance and the grit they showed to get the victory over the line. “It was a great game,” he said.

“We’ve both played with great intensity, and there was chances for each team. We’ve played against a great opponent, and a penalty shoot-out has helped us secure passage to the final.”

Koeman confirmed the story told by the young man who scored the winning penalty, Puig, that he volunteered to take the crucial spot-kick before the shoot-out. “I had four names on my piece of paper and I asked who wanted to take the fifth and he asked,” Koeman said. “And he did very well.”

The Dutchman was happy that some of his younger charges were able to gain experience of playing in a semi-final, battle and come through unscathed. “It’s true that for those who have not participated in a semi-final or in a game as intense as today, it’s important,” he said. “You gain experience playing these games, also with the penalty shoot-out.”

Will Lionel Messi, who missed the game through injury, be back in time for Sunday’s final? “Hopefully,” Koeman said. “I don’t know. We have to wait.”