FC Barcelona beat Athletic Club Bilbao 0-3 in the Estadio Vicente Calderón in Madrid to claim the 2011-2012 Copa del Rey. The blaugrana dominated los leones from the opening whistle, passing quickly, slowly, methodically, embodying everything that the world fell in love with during the tenure of Pep Guardiola. Pedro (2', 24') and Lionel Messi (19') scored the winning goals for Barcelona, in the game that signaled the end of Guradiola's time with the club. The Catalan side thoroughly deserved this title, dominating in vintage style an Athletic Bilbao team that seemed listless and uninventive with the ball.
After the opening barrage of goals in the first half--Barça would have their final margin of victory within twenty-five minutes--the game slowed down a little, with Bilbao trying their best to push into Barcelona's territory. The second half would see Bilbao attack more and more, though with very little success, as the Barcelona defense--lead by a fantastic Javier Mascherano--managed to counter every single attack.
Athletic's attacks seemed to become more and more vertical as the half wore on, but with Fernando Llorente perfectly covered by national team compatriot Gerard Piqué, there was little the Basque side managed to accomplish. Barcelona seemed content to rest on their--admittedly fantastic--first half laurels, with their occasional attacks coming by way of Leo Messi (who else?).
As the game wore down, and the Barcelona fans and coaches could feel victory approaching, Pep Guardiola finally seemed content. He grinned widely, waved to his players celebrating on the bench, and then turned to his successor (Tito Vilanova, his assistant) and gave him a long, heartfelt hug. It was an important moment for a Barcelona community that has been worrying about the coming change in leadership.
Sure, Guardiola and Vilanova seemed to say, the end of the Pep era is upon us; but the Vilanova era has just begun. Or at least that's what we'd like to believe.