Barcelona legend Lionel Messi and teammate Luis Suarez are backing their under-pressure manager, Ernesto Valverde, after losing 2-3 to Atletico Madrid in the second semi-final of the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia on Thursday night.
The La Liga leaders were outplayed in the controversial tournament at the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah. The defeat has created a lot of pressure on Valverde, who was booed often by the Barcelona fans present inside the stadium.
Valverde was made Barca's coach in May 2017. Since then, he had often been criticised for Barca's UEFA Champions League exits in the last two seasons. However, Messi defended his coach.
The Argentine reportedly said, "Yes, there's complete confidence in the coach. It's normal that a lot gets said when there's a loss, when you don't meet your objectives or you don't play like we like to play. We can't commit schoolboy mistakes as we did. It's been a while since we felt so good, though. We controlled the game for 80 minutes, taking the match [to Atletico], and then it gets away from us with a couple of untimely mistakes. They were dead before then. "
Barcelona controlled the ball throughout the match and the first half was all about keeping Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak busy.
Barcelona had 73% ball possession in last night's game. Although the Catalans created a lot of chances inside the box, they could not convert during the first 45 minutes. A strong Atletico defense, together with poor execution from Barcelona, ended the first half goalless.
They were 0-1 down just a minute into the second-half as Koke took the lead for Atletico in the 46th minute. But soon after, Messi played his part and equalised the score. Over the next half hour, Messi remained dominant on the field. Barcelona kept creating opportunities in the second half as well, but Oblak was too good to be beaten often.
Messi scored again but the Virtual Assistant Referee (VAR) ruled him off-side. Gerard Pique's goal was also declared off-side by the VAR. In the 62nd minute, Frenchman Antoine Griezmann's timely, well-directed header helped Barca take a 2-1 lead. Just when Valverde was looking relaxed at the start of the last 10 minutes, goalkeeper Neto's blunder cost the team a penalty.
Neto was shown a yellow card and Alvaro Morata converted the penalty to score the equaliser for Atletico in the 81st minute. Barca conceded again in the 86th minute as Angel Correa's late chip went over Neto's head to eventually hit the net. With that, the speculations of a possible Clasico clash in the Supercopa de Espana final were crushed.
Instead, a Madrid derby awaits in the final as Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid meet in the same stadium on Sunday.