CÓRDOBA, Spain (AP) — Marc-Andre ter Stegen made two crucial saves in extra time and then stopped two penalties in the shootout Wednesday to help a Barcelona side without Lionel Messi beat Real Sociedad and reach the final of the Spanish Super Cup.
Ter Stegen blocked penalties by Jon Bautista and Mikel Oyarzabal in the shootout before Barcelona substitute Riqui Puig converted the winning spot kick after the game had ended 1-1.
The German goalkeeper also made two superb saves in the final minutes of extra time, stretching to stop two goal-bound strikes by substitute Adnan Januzaj.
“This is what I am always looking for, to play at 100 percent,” Ter Stegen said. “I am very happy and proud of the team for the huge effort we made, and I think we deserved the victory.”
Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann missed their penalties for Barcelona, which had started strong thanks to Ter Stegen’s initial saves in the shootout, before Puig clinched the win with his decisive effort. Ousmane Dembele and Miralem Pjanic also converted theirs for the Catalan club.
De Jong put Barcelona ahead with a skillful header in the 39th minute of a highly entertaining contest between two of the most attractive and talented attacks in Spain.
Oyarzabal equalized from the spot after De Jong used his arm to cut off a pass in the area in the 51st. But when the Spain striker went back to the spot in the shootout, Ter Stegen held his ground until smothering his effort, ending Oyarzabal’s streak of 16 converted spot kicks in a row.
“Anyone who likes football, enjoyed this match,” Sociedad coach Imanol Alguacil said. “There are some losses that hurt but that help your grow, especially for a young team like ours. Soccer sometimes owes you one, and now I think we have one coming back.”
Puig, who has struggled to get playing time since the arrival of Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman last summer, went on at the start of extra time.
When the team huddled before the shootout, the 21-year-old Puig raised his hand when Koeman asked who wanted to take the fifth and final kick.
“When I grabbed the ball, I knew it was going in. And I shot it with all my confidence,” said Puig, who added that he hoped to play more. “Even if I don’t play that much, I have my family and my health. I won’t give up now after spending so many years to reach the first team. I won’t give up now.”
The win comes with Barcelona on the rise in the Spanish league after a difficult transition following the arrival of Koeman and the club’s overhaul of its squad.
Center back Ronald Araújo excelled again playing for the injured Gerard Pique, while Óscar Mingueza impressed in his first match at right-back.
“If you consider all the players we have injured, it is important to see how others have stepped up,” Koeman said.
Messi watched the match from the stands in the intense cold at Córdoba’s Nuevo Arcángel Stadium. He had been substituted early in Barcelona’s 4-0 win at Granada on Saturday. He also missed a 1-1 draw with Eibar two weeks ago due to a right ankle problem.
Barcelona will face the winner of the other semifinal between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao to be played in Granada on Thursday.
Koeman said the club would “have to wait over the next days to see if (Messi) is in condition to play” the final in Seville on Sunday.
The Super Cup was moved to southern Spain after the coronavirus pandemic stopped it from being held in Saudi Arabia for a second straight year as planned.
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