Barcelona cruised into the semifinals of the Copa del Rey with a 5-1 victory over Levante giving them an emphatic 9-2 winning margin on aggregate. The Catalans are now likely to face a sterner test in the last four if, as expected, Real Sociedad hold onto their first-leg lead against Racing Santander on Thursday.
In front of a near empty Camp Nou on a soaking wet night, Levante dampened what little atmosphere there was by going ahead inside 10 minutes with a Sergi Roberto own goal. But Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s side, who were without Lionel Messi, Xavi, Gerard Pique, Dani Alves, Pedro and Victor Valdes, responded to build on their 4-1 result from the first leg last week. Adriano and Carles Puyol were on target before half-time before an Alexis Sanchez double and a strike from Cesc Fabregas completed the rout.
While Levante frustrated Barcelona to a 1-1 draw in La Liga just 10 days ago, they produced meek opposition in the Copa del Rey and their goalkeeper Javi Jimenez had a particularly miserable night in the wet conditions on Wednesday.
It wasn’t a completely serene night for the home side, however, with their weakness from set-pieces reappearing to enable Levante to go in front on the night after just nine minutes. Loukas Vyntra was allowed to get in a header from a near-post corner that was heading well wide before striking the back of Sergi Roberto and going past the unmoved Jose Pinto.
Sergi Roberto came close to getting a goal at the right end when his shot deflected onto the roof of the net. But it would not be long before Barcelona were back level on the night. Levante continued to sit back on the edge of their area as Barcelona passed it around just on the edge and they then failed to close Adriano down as the full-back drove in a shot that caught Jimenez slow to react and found the bottom corner.
And just before half-time Barcelona were in front. This time it was Barcelona that prospered from a set-piece as Puyol rose with authority at the near post from Cristiano Tello’s corner and powered a header into the net for his first goal of the season.
Any hope of a morale-boosting result for the visitors was then ended within a two-minute spell early in the second half. First, Martin Montoya found himself in an unfamiliar position running in on goal through the center from Tello’s pass. His lack of experience in front of goal showed with a tame lob, but the slick ball slipped through the fingers of Jimenez, allowing Sanchez to tap in. And the Chilean soon had an equally simple second goal. Adriano shot took a sizable deflection, leaving the prone Jimenez only able to stick out his leg to take it onto the bar and as he tried to grab it at the second attempt Sanchez nipped in to poke it into the net.
Jimenez’s evening to forget was then complete as he suffered more misfortune. After a delightful turn on the sodden pitch by Sanchez and a good pass out to Fabregas on the right of the area, the former Arsenal midfielder struck a left-footed shot that went through the legs of Juanfran to again beat the luckless Jimenez.