Lionel Messi capped his return from injury with a brace as Barcelona all-but booked their place in the last eight of the Copa del Rey with a 4-0 victory over Getafe at the Camp Nou. Cesc Fabregas had earlier scored in either half, the second from the penalty spot, to put Barcelona in control of the match and the last-16 tie before Messi made his grand reappearance and rewarded his worshipping congregation in style late on. Having looked reticent to move at full steam after coming on following a two-month absence due to a hamstring injury, Messi gradually grew into the game and ended the contest with a typically brilliant individual goal.
Getafe had a couple of chances from set-pieces in the opening half but were on the back foot for much of the contest against a Barcelona side who have started 2014 in impressive fashion. With Messi grabbing 30 minutes of action to build up match sharpness after two months out with a hamstring injury, Tata Martino has reason to be confident heading into Saturday’s La Liga showdown with Atletico Madrid. Indeed his greatest problem may be choosing which three men to select in the forward line, with Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, Neymar and now Messi all having strong claims to start.
With that match in mind, Xavi, Gerard Pique, Jordo Alba and Victor Valdes all remained on the bench for the full 90 minutes, while Neymar was ruled out with illness. Still, that did little to disrupt Barcelona, who continued the momentum from Sunday’s 4-0 mauling of Elche. And within eight minutes the home side were in front.
After Pedro had seen a cross palmed out to the edge of box by Jordi Codina, the ball eventually got worked back out wide to the in-form wide man, who this time produced a perfect cross for Fabregas to head back across goal and into the net.
Despite continuing to dominate possession, Barcelona were unable to create further openings in the first half against a well-organized Getafe side. And while the visitors did little from open play, they twice came close to exposing Barcelona’s still questionable defending from set-pieces. First Valera might have done better than head wide of the upright following a free-kick to the far post. Just past the half-hour mark Jose Manuel Pinto was called into action, too, as the stand in for Valdes made a flying save to keep out an Alexis header.
Barcelona were inches away from matching their first-half achievement by grabbing a similarly early goal after the interval. Pedro’s inviting ball into the area looked poised to be converted but got a crucial touch off a defender that took it away from Fabregas and Sanchez and sent it inches wide of the post.
Fabregas was also denied by Codina before Messi would be presented with a chance to grab his fourth goal in two games against Getafe. As he looked to check back down the left of the penalty area, Pedro was brought down by a clumsy challenge from Valera to give the referee a simple decision to award the penalty. And as he had done in the meeting between the sides last month, Fabregas made no mistake from the spot, hammering the ball into the top corner.
It was then time for the Messi show. After initially just ambling around the pitch waiting to make his mark, he would once more ensure the headlines belonged to him. First, in the 89th minute, Sergio Busquets’ pass over the top perfectly picked out the run of Martin Montoya in behind the defense and although the right-back’s first touch left something to be desired, the ball still found its way to Messi who finished simply low into the corner.
Then came confirmation that Messi was truly back. Receiving the ball 35 yards from goal, Messi moved inside from the left and into the area with his quick feet deterring any Getafe player form making a challenge before Barcelona’s returning- idol finished with an emphatic finish high into the net with his wondrous left foot.