Messi waves his wand again to inspire Barca to Copa del Rey win

Luis Enrique’s side ease past Athletic Bilbao at Nou Camp to remain on course for treble

Barcelona remain on course for the treble after they beat Atletic Bilbao 3-1 in the Copa del Rey final. Photograph: Afp

Barcelona remain on course for the treble after they beat Atletic Bilbao 3-1 in the Copa del Rey final. Photograph: Afp

 

Athletic Bilbao 1 Barcelona 3

Lionel Messi scored another wonder goal as Barcelona moved a step closer to completing the treble on Saturday night with a 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final.

Neymar thought he had opened the scoring as early as the 10th minute, only for his neat volley to be ruled out for offside, but it was not long until Barca were celebrating the first goal — and it arrived in some style.

Messi, starting just inside the Athletic half near the right touchline, weaved his way past four defenders and then beat Iago Herrerin at his near post for a stunning strike which set the Nou Camp alight on 20 minutes.

Neymar rounded off a neat team move to double Barca’s advantage nine minutes before the break and Messi put the game further out of Athletic’s reach by stabbing home a third goal on 74 minutes.

Twenty-year-old Inaki Williams, who had struck the bar with a volley four minutes before half-time, was rewarded for his endeavour with a consolation cup final goal 11 minutes from time, but that was as good as it got for the Basque outfit.

Athletic were always on the back foot, even before Messi’s spectacular solo effort.

Their coach Ernesto Valverde admitted on Friday that he had no idea how to stop the prolific Argentina forward, and his players were equally bamboozled on the pitch. They had no answer when the mercurial 27-year-old set out on a mazy run which ended in a fierce shot past Herrerin.

Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez then combined, with the latter unselfishly setting up Neymar for a straightforward finish for number two.

Xavi, who will join Qatari side Al-Sadd at the end of the season having spent his whole career at Barca, was introduced as a 54th-minute substitute for Andres Iniesta.

Dani Alves escaped down the right and provided the perfect cross for Messi to make it 3-0 16 minutes from time, his first-time finish too good for Herrerin.

Goal number three took the tally for Barca strike trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez to 120 goals this season.

Williams glanced a superb header past Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the 79th minute to give Ernesto Valverde’s team a slim hope of a comeback, but they could make no further inroads into Barca’s advantage.

There was almost a fairytale ending for Xavi, on his emotional final appearance at the Nou Camp, but his stoppage-time free-kick skimmed the post.

Xavi and Iniesta received the cup together from King Felipe of Spain, in front of a largely delighted crowd of 99,354.

The triumph handed Barca a 27th Copa crown and, having already won the Primera Division title, it could get even better for Luis Enrique’s side when they take on Juventus in the Champions League final next weekend.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.