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Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi staged a scintillating performance on Wednesday night at Camp Nou, scoring all seven of FC Barcelona’s goals, as the so-called trident flummoxed visiting Valencia from start to finish en route to a mammoth rout in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-finals.
The colossal victory virtually assures the defending champions another berth in the final. With the second leg scheduled for next week at the Mestalla, Valencia will have no choice but to reciprocate Barça's pleiad of goals in order to force extra time, a preposterous feat if there ever was one.
"We have an objective and that is to win trophies again. If we can delight the fans, better," FC Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique said after the game.
The monumental win extends FC Barcelona’s unbeaten streak to a whopping 27 games across all competitions, just one shy of tying the Club’s all-time record. It is also their seventh straight victory at Camp Nou, during which they have scored 30 goals and given up only three.
The defeat is Valencia head coach Gary Neville’s first in the Copa del Rey — after winning his first four — since taking over the reins on 2 December.
Heading into the game Valencia knew they had to score an away goal to give them a chance in the second leg, an approach that saw them buried them alive.
Suárez put FC Barcelona up 1–0 after seven minutes when he culminated a quintessential trident counterattack by beating Valencia goalkeeper Matthew Ryan inside the far post. Neymar got the assist on a play that perfectly embodied the offensive prowess of FC Barcelona’s three-headed monster and which was a harbinger of what would become an avalanche of goals.
Six minutes later, in the 13th, Suárez made it 2–0 when he took a pass from Aleix Vidal and one-timed a blast from just beyond the penalty spot.
Messi got on the board in the 28th to put Barça up 3–0 after taking a sparkling no-look pass from Neymar — his second assist of the night — and chipping past Matthews from close range.
"With Messi and Suárez we are amazed every day," Vidal said after the match.
Barça could have added two more before the break but couldn’t find the net.
Messi hit the crossbar in the 45th and then, in injury time, was tripped up from behind by Shkodran Mustafi in the penalty area, leading to Mustafi’s expulsion from the match and a spot-kick opportunity for Neymar. Neymar, though, hit the post.
With Valencia down to ten men and Barça comfortably in control, the atmosphere at Camp Nou was temporarily calm.
But when former Real Madrid striker Denis Cheryshev made his debut for Valencia in the 59th minute, he took the field to enormous applause. After all it was Cheryshev who, earlier this season, appeared for Madrid in the last 32 — when he should have been serving a suspension — thus leading to their expulsion from this year’s competition.
The cheering became a deafening roar, though, when Messi — just seconds after Cheryshev came on — danced through a pair of defenders and slotted home for his second goal of the night. It was 4–0 and there were still 30 minutes to play.
Messi sealed his hat trick in the 74th minute after picking Dani Parejo’s pocket in the penalty area and sending a missile past Matthews at the near post to run the score to 5–0. Matthews pounded his fist into the turf, lashing out at himself for being unable to stop the shot.
Suárez’s hat trick came in the 83rd as he headed in a cross from Adriano at the far post to make it 6–0.
The seventh and final goal of the night fell in the 86th when Suárez took a pass from Arda Turan, turned and fired a shot off the inside of the right post for his fourth goal of the game.
Suárez continues to lead the team in scoring across all competitions this season, and now has 33 goals in 36 games played.
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