Messi stars as Barca achieve first in Spain since 1998

Date published: Monday 23rd May 2016 8:27

Barcelona: Celebrate Copa del Rey success

Barcelona: Celebrate Copa del Rey success

Defending Copa del Rey champions Barcelona became the first team to retain the trophy since 1998 as they defeated Sevilla 2-0 after extra time in the final.

Barca were the last team to clinch back-to-back Copa del Reys, which they did under Bobby Robson and Louis van Gaal’s guidance, though they had to dig deep to make it a domestic double in 2016 having played for more than an hour with 10 men following Javier Mascherano’s first-half dismissal.

The La Liga champions stood firm against the Europa League victors, who were back in action following Wednesday’s win over Liverpool in Switzerland, and when Ever Banega’s red card levelled up the numbers ahead of extra time, Barca had the staying power.

Lionel Messi’s terrific vision led to Jordi Alba’s first goal of the season in the 97th minute and the Argentine then teed up Neymar for a second after Daniel Carrico had also been sent off for two cautions.

It proved to be one match too far for Sevilla, who had opened the season with a 5-4 Super Cup loss to Barca in August when they were undone by another extra-time goal.

Sevilla had started sluggishly in Basle four nights earlier and must have feared the worst when Andres Iniesta’s dink over their defence found Luis Suarez. However, the 59-goal striker lashed wide of the near post after allowing the ball to bounce once before firing in a half volley.

At the other end Coke, whose brace in midweek had delivered a third straight Europa League title, was also uncharacteristically wayward in front of goal with a side-footed attempt which only spun sideways.

The half’s turning point came nine minutes before the break when Mascherano was dismissed for hauling down Kevin Gameiro just outside the box.

The centre-back was struggling to keep up with the Frenchman for pace following Vicente Iborra’s headed flick-on and he clearly had a handful of the striker’s white shirt as he pulled him to the ground.

The 10 men almost claimed a half-time advantage, though, when Gerard Pique headed Ivan Rakitic’s header over the frame of the goal with nobody on the post.

It had taken Sevilla just 18 second-half seconds to score against Liverpool and Unai Emery’s interval team-talk almost had an instant effect again.

Banega had already seen one effort from distance blocked when another try was diverted on to the inside of the post from Pique’s outstretched right boot.

Barca may have survived that scare but they suffered another setback when a hamstring injury forced Suarez off before the hour in an incident which came moments after Messi needed treatment following a blow to the head.

It was unfamiliar back-to-the-walls stuff for Luis Enrique’s team in the second period, Grzegorz Krychowiak’s shot being blocked by Sergio Busquets and the impressive Pique thwarting Gameiro.

Iborra was denied a penalty when tangling with Alves as a cross came in from the right, while Neymar was booked after falling to the ground as he tried to win a free-kick off Banega.

Banega would not last much longer, though, as Neymar again got goal-side of him and the midfielder followed Mascherano off by scything the Brazilian down just outside the box.

Now it was Sevilla who were looking more leggy and when Messi popped up deeper in a midfield role early in extra time, he produced the opening goal.

Neymar drifted off the wing and Messi brilliantly spotted Alba surging ahead of him and Vitolo with a clipped ball that held up after bouncing to allow the full-back to direct his attempt home.

Barcelona would have put the game to bed in a matter of minutes had Rico not saved from Messi, Pique, Alves and Busquets in quick succession, with two of those denials terrific one-handed stops.

It only delayed the inevitable, though, and after Carrico’s over-the-top challenge on Messi triggered a second booking, the Barca talisman picked another hole in the Sevilla defence to set up Neymar to seal the domestic double.

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