Barcelona advance to Copa del Rey semis
Barcelona, Jan. 26 (IANS): Goals by Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi in the first half were all FC Barcelona needed to prevail 2-1 on aggregate over neighbours Espanyol here in their Copa del Rey quarter-final tie.
Having lost the first leg 0-1, the three-time defending champions were on Thursday dominant from the start of the contest at the Camp Nou stadium where Espanyol had lost on their preceding 10 visits, reports Efe.
Suarez’s authoritative header in the ninth minute brought Barcelona level on aggregate.
Messi made it 2-0 on the night in the 25th minute, gathering a loose ball in the box and giving a shot that deflected off Espanyol’s Naldo and into the net.
The Argentine nearly got a second goal before the half ended after making a spectacular move to snag a Sergio Busquets cross, but he hooked the shot too much as Espanyol keeper Pau Lopez came off his line to cut down the angle.
Messi threatened again in the 55th minute, forcing a stop from Lopez.
With 20 minutes left in regulation, new Barcelona signing Philippe Coutinho made his debut, to the delight of the nearly 80,000 people in the stands at Camp Nou.
The former Liverpool star set up what looked like a sure goal by Suarez, only for Lopez to guess right and make the save.
The Espanyol keeper also stopped Ivan Rakitic before getting help from the post with a Messi header in the 88th minute.
With this win, Barcelona join Sevilla, Valencia and Leganes in the semi-finals.