Messi-in­spired Barcelona win 27th Copa del Rey

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY KIERAN CAN­NING

A Lionel Messi-in­spired Barcelona sealed a league and Cup dou­ble as they swept aside Ath­letic Bil­bao 3-1 to win the Copa del Rey for a 27th time on Satur­day.

Messi opened the scor­ing in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion by drib­bling past four Ath­letic play­ers and lash­ing home a low fin­ish be­fore Ney­mar added a sec­ond be­fore half-time.

The Ar­gen­tine grabbed his sec­ond of the game to kill the tie as a con­test 17 min­utes from time be­fore Inaki Wil­liams grabbed a con­so­la­tion for the Basques.

De­spite Ath­letic fans dom­i­nat­ing two-thirds of the 99,000 ca­pac­ity Camp Nou, there was noth­ing their play­ers could do to stop a ram­pant Barca that is now just one game away from just the sec­ond tre­ble in the club’s his­tory.

Luis Enrique’s men face Ital­ian cham­pi­ons Ju­ven­tus in the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal in Ber­lin on June 6.

The game be­gan in con­tro­versy af­ter the Span­ish na­tional an­them was drowned by the fans of two clubs with strong sep­a­ratist iden­ti­ties.

Heav­ily In­volved Messi

On the field there was

lit­tle to ar­gue about as Messi tore Bil­bao apart to con­tinue their 31-year drought with­out win­ning a ma­jor tro­phy.

The four-time World Player of the Year teed up Ney­mar for what should have been the open­ing goal just nine min­utes in, but the Brazil­ian’s ef­fort was wrongly dis­al­lowed for off­side.

Luis Suarez then forced Iago Her­rerin into the first of many fine saves with a low drive.

Her­rerin was left as help­less as the rest of his team­mates 11 min­utes later when Messi danced past Mikel Balen­zi­aga, Mikel Rico and Be­nat Etxe­bar­ria tight on the touch­line be­fore turn­ing in­side Aymeric Laporte and smash­ing in at the near post.

Even by the Ar­gen­tine’s in­cred­i­bly high stan­dards the move and fin­ish was as good as any of his pre­vi­ous 410 Barca goals.

Messi wasn’t fin­ished as he then turned provider for Suarez whose low cross was met by Ney­mar and bril­liantly blocked by Her­rerin.

The Ath­letic stop­per con­tin­ued to frus­trate Barca as he then stretched to turn Ger­ard Pique’s ef­fort from Messi’s free-kick over.

Barcelona did fi­nally dou­ble their ad­van­tage nine min­utes be­fore half-time with Messi again heav­ily in­volved as he fed Ivan Rakitic who re­leased Suarez and this time the Uruguayan’s pass was rolled into an un­guarded net by Ney­mar for his sev­enth goal of the com­pe­ti­tion.

Ath­letic star­let Inaki Wil­liams came clos­est to a re­ply be­fore the break with a dip­ping vol­ley that clipped the top of the cross­bar.

How­ever, Her­rerin had to be alive mo­ments later to turn a free­kick from Messi be­hind.

Per­haps with one eye on next week­end’s Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal, Barca eased up slightly in the sec­ond pe­riod.

Xavi Her­nan­dez was brought on to savour his fi­nal ap­pear­ance at the Camp Nou af­ter a 17-year ca­reer.

Messi added his 58th goal of the sea­son as he pounced on some lack­adaisi­cal Ath­letic de­fend­ing to prod home Dani Alves’s cross.

The Bil­bao faith­ful did at least get some­thing to cheer 11 min­utes from time as the 20-year-old Wil­liams notched just his third se­nior goal from Ibai Gomez’s cross.

AP

Barcelona play­ers cel­e­brate with the cup af­ter win­ning the fi­nal of the Copa del Rey soc­cer match 3-1 against Ath­letic Bil­bao at the Camp Nou sta­dium in Barcelona on Satur­day, May 30.

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