Lionel Messi stars as Barcelona win Copa Del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao
Copa Del Rey final, Camp Nou - Athletic Bilbao 1 (Williams 79) Barcelona 3 (Messi 20 74 Neymar 36)
Lionel Messi scored an astonishing opening goal against Athletic Bilbao as Barcelona lifted the Copa Del Rey in what could be a treble of trophies this season.
Having already clinched the Liga title, and with a Champions League final clash against Juventus set for next week, the Catalans stayed on course for a historic first season under Luis Enrique with a comprehensive victory over Athletic.
It was Messi who provided the brightest highlight in the victory for Barca, squirming through the challenges of three Athletic players and cutting inside before firing a clinical near post finish into the net.
It set Enrique’s side on their way to a comfortable win at the Camp Nou - which welcomed nearly 40,000 visiting Athletic supporters - with Neymar applying the finishing touch on what was a wonderful Barcelona passing move, tapping home after a square pass across the face of goal from Luis Suarez.
Athletic Bilbao improved marginally after the break, but afforded Messi with the chance to score his second and Barcelona’s third of the night - falling asleep in defence as the Argentine nipped in to finish Dani Alves’ low cross.
The Basque side grabbed a consolation goal after 79 minutes, with Inaki Williams beating Sergio Busquets in the air to glance home past Marc Andre Ter Stegen, but Barcelona were rarely troubled as they clinched the Copa Del Rey ahead of next week’s trip to Berlin.
Barcelona's Andres Iniesta and Xavi take the trophy to their team mates as they celebrate after winning the Spanish King's Cup finalReuters
13’ - WHOOPS: That was almost a disaster for Barcelona! Ter Stegen takes one too many touches on the ball and almost has his pocket picked by Williams, but his teammates get him out of a hole to recover.
15’ - GREAT STOP: Big save from Herrerin to keep Barcelona at bay! Rakitic plays a neat little reverse pass into Suarez, but the former Liverpool striker shoots straight at the goalkeeper, who made himself big!
20’ - GOAL! Athletic Bilbao 0-1 Barcelona. What. A. Goal! That is one of the all time classics! Incredible! Sensational. He beat three Athletic players in close proximity, then cut inside and finished into the near post. Wow! You need to see this.
26’ - ANOTHER BIG SAVE. Massive save from Herrerin! That save could keep Athletic Bilbao in this game. Suarez broke the offside trap and played a square pass for Neymar, but the goalkeeper made the close range save.
27’ HERRERIN AGAIN: And another big save from Herrerin! This time Pique gets on the end of a set piece delivery into the Athletic Bilbao penalty area, pushing the effort over his crossbar and on to the roof of the net.
38’ GOAL! Athletic Bilbao 0-2 Barcelona. Another splendid goal, although this is a team effort. Athletic are taken apart by a lovely passing move, and Suarez squares for Neymar to finish into the empty net.
Neymar celebrates with Lionel Messi after scoring the second goal for BarcelonaReuters
42’ WOODWORK: Skimmed off the top of the crossbar! Williams gets in behind the Barcelona backline and meets a pass forward on the volley. It was a fantastic effort, but the shot skiffs off the top of the woodwork.
44’ STOP IT, HERRERIN: Another sensational save from Herrerin! Messi looks to have found the top corner of the net with a left-footed freekick from the left side of the box, but the Athletic Bilbao keeper pushes it over the bar.
60’ SUAREZ CHANCE: That was very nearly a third goal for Barcelona! The ball broke from Alves and released Suarez through on goal, but Herrerin came off his line quickly to smother the shot from the striker.
73’ GOAL! Athletic Bilbao 0-3 Barcelona. They might as well start engraving the trophy now! Alves squared the pass from the right side, with Messi finishing with a shot with the outside of the left foot.
Lionel Messi celebrates with Neymar after scoring the third goal for BarcelonaReuters
80’ GOAL! Athletic Bilbao 1-3 Barcelona. Is that a consolation goal, or a way back into the match? Whatever it is, Williams flicks on a cross to find the net under pressure from Busquets.
91’ SO CLOSE: That was almost the perfect way to cap this performance! Xavi lined up the freekick from the edge of the penalty area, but his effort clips the outside of the post with Herrerin beaten.
Athletic Bilbao averaged their lowest share of possession (27%) in any performance in any competition this season.
Leo Messi has scored 10 braces in all competitions this season, more than any other La Liga player.
No goalkeeper made more saves than Herrerin did in the first half of a Copa Del Rey game this season.
Is this Barcelona team as good as Pep Guardiola’s? It wasn’t so long ago that Luis Enrique looked set to become the latest Barca coach to leave the club under the lingering shadow of Guardiola. Now he is in charge of a team that is comparable to the great sides of a few seasons ago. They are a different kind of team, but will be compared to Guardiola’s should they complete a treble with victory over Juventus in the Champions League final next week. So whose Barcelona side was better: Enrique’s or Guardiola’s?
Barcelona celebrate winning the Spanish King's Cup finalReuters
MAN OF THE MATCH
Lionel Messi (Barcelona): The Argentine’s opener against Athletic Bilbao was up with some of his best ever goals - and he has quite the collection. Messi is at the peak of his powers right now, with the signing of Suarez last summer seemingly liberating him. He seems to have more space than ever across the Barcelona frontline, and is making the most of it. He cannot be stopped and is in the form of his life in 2015.