MADRID, Spain (AFP) — Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s heroics ensured Barcelona edged past Real Sociedad on penalties on Wednesday to reach the Spanish Super Cup final without the injured Lionel Messi.
Messi was watching on as Ter Stegen did his best to fill the void in Cordoba, the goalkeeper immense both in the shoot-out and during normal time, which had finished 1-1.
Frenkie de Jong’s header was canceled out by a penalty from Mikel Oyarzabal, who then missed in the shoot-out, one of two crucial saves made by Ter Stegen before 21-year-old Riqui Puig hit the winning shot.
“I wasn’t down to take one but we needed one more taker and I stepped forward,” Puig said.
Barca advance to meet either Real Madrid or Athletic Bilbao in the final on Sunday when Messi is expected to be available again, although coach Ronald Koeman was cautious at full-time.
“We have to wait,” he said.
Koeman’s team have a mountain to climb in La Liga’s title race but they are improving, now nine games unbeaten and with a trophy in their grasp.
This is the second year of the Spanish Super Cup’s new format, which has four teams playing each other in a semifinal and final.
Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad joined after reaching the final of last season’s Copa del Rey, which is still to be played, while Barcelona finished runners-up to Madrid in La Liga.
Yet while last season’s version controversially took place in Saudi Arabia, the pandemic means this year’s semis are in Cordoba and Malaga, with the final to be played in Seville.
Barca was the better side in the first half but had Ter Stegen to thank for not conceding early as Alexander Isak sped into the area only to see his chipped finish saved by the goalkeeper.