FC Barcelona knock out Athletic for yet another semi-final appearance in the Copa del Rey

FC Barcelona knock out Athletic for yet another semi-final appearance in the Copa del Rey

Second half goals by Luis Suárez, Gerard Piqué and Neymar help Barça to a 5–2 aggregate victory and sixth straight last four place

Seat edges were invented for games like these. FC Barcelona spent over 40 minutes in an uncharacteristically precarious position but got three second half goals to knock Athletic Club Bilbao out of the Copa del Rey by a score of 3–1, 5–2 on aggregate, and qualify for the semi-finals for the sixth consecutive year.

Iñaki Williams put the Basques up in the 12th minute and set the Camp Nou on edge until Luis Suárez drew the Catalans level in the 53rd.

Gerard Piqué’s 81st minute goal made sure there would be no extra time and Neymar capped off the scoring with a late blast.

The victory sees FC Barcelona extend their unbeaten streak to 25 games across all competitions, including five straight wins at Camp Nou.

It was the third meeting in a 10-day span between the two sides — one in La Liga, two in the Cup — with FC Barcelona winning all three by a combined score of 11–2. It was also the sixth and final game betwen the two this season, with the initial three also coming in a cluster. Athletic won the very first of them but Barça swept all the rest.

The Basques went up early on Wednesday night when Williams got behind the Barça defence in the 12th minute and slotted past goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen for a 1–0 lead, drawing Athletic level at 2–2 on aggregate.

But with Athletic knowing they had to score at least twice to avoid elimination, after Williams’ goal, they pressed even harder.

With Barça down 1–0 early and every last attendee at Camp Nou knowing full well that a 2–0 Athletic Club victory would eliminate FCB from the tournament, the atmosphere inside the stadium had all the intensity of a final.

When Suárez struck for Barça in the 53rd minute the uneasiness finally vanished. The assist went to Lionel Messi, who received a pass from Sergi Roberto, stormed down the left wing and rolled a cross through the area that Ivan Rakitic missed. Suárez, though, was in perfect position to clean up, drawing Barça level at 1–1 and, more importantly, giving them a 3–2 aggregate lead.

"Their goal made it tough but in the second half we went for it and we are very happy," Suárez said after the game.

Suárez returned to action after missing the last two Copa del Rey matches with a suspension that he picked up in the first leg of the last 16 versus Espanyol.

Messi was back too, after sitting out Barça’s 2–1 first leg victory in Bilbao with an injury, and was the main catalyst on the key play of the evening.

When FC Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique opted in the 70th minute to bring in midfielder Sergio Busquets — his possession guru, who was supposed to have the night off — the Athletic Club attack, which had been largely dormant since the intermission, went virtually extinct.

"It is worthy of praise what Athletic have done, but also what my players have done. I congratulate them on their response," Luis Enrique said, just seconds after the final whistle.

Play quickly took on a different tone heading into the final quarter hour. Suárez had a goal on his boot. So did Rakitic. Both barely missed. Then Sergi Roberto teed one up that was parried by Athletic goalkeeper Iago Herrerín. Piqué got in on the action too, and just missed heading home a corner kick.

Piqué, however, got a second chance, heading in a cross from Dani Alves in the 81st minute.

With FCB up 2–1 in the game and 4–2 on aggregate, there was no tension. There were no jitters. There was just a whole lot of cheering, as Barça’s trip to the semi-finals was being booked and awaiting confirmation.

That job was for Neymar, who, in the 90th minute, blasted the ball into the upper left corner for the final score of the game, and of the quarter-finals.

Força Barça
Força Barça

Related to this article

Close article

Related to this article