Barcelona were given little trouble in confirming their place in the Copa del Rey final and a meeting with rivals Real Madrid after a 3-1 aggregate win over Real Sociedad. Taking a comfortable lead from the first leg at the Camp Nou last week, Barcelona’s semifinal win was effectively confirmed with a fine solo goal from Lionel Messi in the opening half at the Anoeta. Antoine Griezmann struck late on to give the home fans something to cheer, but it was never going to prove any more than a consolation.
Despite an upcoming La Liga match against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday before the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Manchester City, Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino selected what was close to his strongest possible side. With Neymar still injured, only Alexis Sanchez and Victor Valdes are likely to come into the lineup that takes on the Premier League side next Tuesday.
Still, it was an encounter in which Barcelona were never seriously put under pressure. That was particularly true after Messi put them in front. It was a terrible pass from Sociedad left-back Jese Angel that gifted Messi the ball right on halfway. From there, only one outcome looked likely. As defenders backed off, Messi surged forward to the edge of the box and used his scintillating close control to keep five defenders at bay and provide space for a low show that went in despite Enaut Zubikarai getting a hand to it.
The Sociedad goalkeeper did get his hands to plenty more Barcelona efforts to prevent the visitors from extending their advantage, notably saving back-to-back from Messi as well as denying Dani Alves. Meanwhile Mexican forward Carlos Vela almost provided a goal that would even have eclipsed Messi’s as he struck an incredible shot from a ridiculous angle outside the penalty area on the right, only to see it come back off the crossbar.
The side sixth in La Liga did finally have a goal to savor in the tie with three minutes remaining. It was a fine effort too. Sergio Canales’ cross-field pass found fellow substitute Gonzalo Castro down the left and he put a first-time low ball into the near post that Griezmann struck cleanly past Jose Manuel Pinto.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.