Bilbao Super Cup party on hold as Europe trip awaits
Athletic Bilbao`s Spanish Super Cup victory over Barcelona prompted immense joy in the Basque city but the players cannot afford to soak it up for too long with Thursday`s Europa League playoff looming.
Bilbao, who lost 3-1 to Barca in May`s King`s Cup final, secured a 1-1 draw at the Nou Camp in Monday`s Super Cup second leg to seal a 5-1 aggregate success that gave them their first trophy since they won Spain`s traditional season opener in 1984.
Bilbao president Josu Urrutia promised a big party but said the fact the team were travelling to play a Europa League playoff first leg at Slovakian side Zilina on Thursday meant celebrations would need to be reined in for now.
Bilbao have twice reached the final of Europe`s second-tier club competition, losing to Juventus in 1977 and Atletico Madrid in 2012.
Coach Ernesto Valverde, a former Bilbao player who also had stints in charge at Espanyol, Villarreal, Valencia and Olympiakos Piraeus, admitted his side had suffered at times during Monday`s game, especially after going 1-0 down to a Lionel Messi strike shortly before halftime.
He praised his players for their fighting spirit and singled out striker Aritz Aduriz, who scored the equaliser 16 minutes from time after netting a hat-trick in a 4-0 win in the first leg at the San Mames.
"The most important thing about my team is their solidarity and their refusal to throw in the towel," Valverde said.
"That`s one of the demands we have at Athletic. Sometimes we do it better or worse but we are clear that we never give in and always take things forward."
Barca captain Andres Iniesta said that despite Monday`s reverse the team were excited about starting their bid for a sixth La Liga title in eight years at Bilbao on Sunday.
He said the dismissal of centre back Gerard Pique 10 minutes into the second half after he insulted an assistant referee had effectively ended Barca`s chances of a comeback.
"It`s a shame because a title has slipped through our grasp but on Sunday we start La Liga with great anticipation and we will try to have a great season," Iniesta told reporters.
"We failed to score more than the one goal in the first half and in the second, with Pique`s sending off, things got much harder for us."