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Lionel Messi's Brilliant Assists Lift Barcelona To Copa Del Rey Glory

Down a man after only 36 minutes and without Luis Suarez, their leading scorer, Barcelona were still able to overcome Sevilla after extra time in Sunday's Copa del Rey final thanks to a brilliant assist from Lionel Messi to Jordi Alba. Neymar added a second goal in the 122nd minute off of another great pass from Messi. 

Barcelona, recently crowned La Liga champions, faced off against Sevilla, recent winners of the UEFA Europa League, at the Vicente Calderon Stadium in the Spanish capital of Madrid.

Barcelona were looking to successfully defend their Copa del Rey title, a feat which hadn’t been accomplished since Barca won the cup in both 1997 and 1998. 

Copa del Rey final: Barcelona vs. Sevilla

Barcelona fans were in full voice with their Estelada flags. Photo: @SquawkaNews | Twitter

The Blaugrana shocked absolutely no one by using the same lineup that started the 2015 Champions League final and their La Liga clinching victory over Granada last week.

For Sevilla, victory in this match would mean their ninth cup final win in the past 10 years. They are undeniably specialists in knockout football, and Barcelona players were well aware of the imminent suffering that Los Rojiblancos would force them to endure. 

For Sevilla, regular goalkeeper Sergio Rico replaced David Soria, who’d started the Europa League final, in net. While the attack and defense remained unchanged from their now famous night in Basel, Steven N’Zonzi was replaced by Vicente Iborra in midfield. 

The game's first moment of note came from Lionel Messi, who had his shot blocked in the sixth minute, springing a counter attack from Sevilla through Kevin Gameiro. However, Marc-Andre ter Stegen was alive to the danger and cut out Gameiro’s low cross. 

In the ninth minute, Barcelona came close to taking the lead. Andres Iniesta, appearing in his 593rd match for Barca and equalling Carles Puyol’s total, chipped an inviting ball over the Sevilla defense and onto the path of Luis Suarez.

Suarez had time and space to measure his shot on the edge of the area, but he lashed his volley attempt wide of the near post.

Copa del Rey final: Barcelona vs. Sevilla

Luis Suarez shoots wide. Photo: @LiveBitcoinBets | Twitter 

Coke had a fantastic chance to continue his brilliant week in the 17th minute. After scoring two goals in the Europa League final, he really should’ve opened the scoring in this Copa del Rey final. 

The ball came to him, completely unmarked and 10 yards from goal, but he mishit his attempted side-foot shot. The ball ended up going backwards rather than nestling into the net.

Thirty minutes into the match and the clubs remained inseparable. While Barcelona enjoyed the majority of possession (59 percent), Sevilla’s defense looked more than up to the task — Neymar was very much on the periphery of the opening exchanges. 

Dani Alvez attempted to take matters into his own hands with a powerful shot that fizzed wide of the post, but Sevilla had to be happy with limiting Barcelona’s chances to shots from distance.

In the 36th minute, the match was turned on its head. Gameiro was sent racing through on goal, forcing Javier Mascherano to pull him down right outside the top of the box. 

A clear goal scoring opportunity and a clear foul resulted in a red card for Mascherano. The Argentine could have no complaints. The resulting free kick was tipped over the bar by Ter Stegen, saving Barcelona from even further punishment.

Barcelona attempted to retain possession and see out the first half while every refereeing decision was greeted with theatrical outrage. Sevilla defenders sent Messi and Neymar flying with hard tackles that stamped Sevilla's fearless approach to the match.

Pique nearly put Barca ahead with a header from a corner, but the sides went into half level. Even with a man advantage, the smart money wasn’t necessarily on Sevilla; such is the brilliance of this Barcelona team.

Ivan Rakitic was sacrificed for Jeremy Mathieu to begin the second half, giving Barca more defensive solidarity, but Barca found themselves under intense Sevilla pressure. 

Ever Banega, reportedly moving to Inter Milan this summer, came inches away from putting Sevilla in front when his effort caromed back off the base of the post with Ter Stegen surely beaten by the low drive.

For Barcelona, matters were made worse in the 56th minute after Luis Enrique was forced to use his second substitution. Suarez, Barcelona's leading scorer on the year, appeared to suffer a hamstring injury, forcing him off the pitch.

Copa del Rey final: Barcelona vs. Sevilla

A terrible sight for both Barcelona and Uruguay. Photo: @TBPractices | Twitter

It was terrible news for both supporters of Barca and Uruguay with the Copa America looming. 

Barcelona defended en masse while Sevilla attempted to intricately work their way through the numbers. While Barca endured some nervy moments, Sevilla were unable to create a clear chance for themselves through 70 minutes.

Barca began to play themselves back into the match with forays forward by Neymar and Iniesta. In both cases, their progress was cynically stopped by Sevilla. Adil Rami, who'd defended heroically throughout the night, was the first Sevilla player to earn a booking after his foul on Neymar. Vitolo quickly joined him in the referee's book when taking down Iniesta. 


Messi's ensuing free kick did little to trouble Rico. With ten minutes to play, the game looked destined for extra time. Employing two solid banks of four, and with Pique in imperious form, Barcelona coped admirably with Sevilla's attacks. The same could not be said of Barca's goalkeeping coach, who was sent to the stands for contesting a decision a little too passionately. 

Barcelona were characteristically unhappy with the decisions going against them; Neymar was booked for simulation, and Alves and Iniesta were booked for dissent after the call.

In the second minute of stoppage time, Sevilla were reduced to 10 men themselves. Messi sent Neymar through, and Banega hacked the Brazilian down. As was the case with Mascherano, Banega was correctly sent off for denying a goal scoring opportunity. Messi's free kick once again lacked the required pace to trouble the goalkeeper.

All in all, the final 20 minutes featured seven yellow cards and one red. The intensity of the match was almost impossible to keep up with until the referee's whistle signaled the end of regular time. 

The advantage in extra time seemed to be with Barcelona, Sevilla's persistent fouling pointing towards obvious levels of exhaustion.

In the 97th minute, Sevilla were finally put to the sword. Lionel Messi received the ball centrally and was given far too much space and time on the ball. He looked up, spotted Alba's run and played an absolutely sensational ball over the top of the defense. 

The raking, 45-yard pass was finished neatly by Alba. 

Sergio Rico kept Sevilla in the match with a couple of big saves toward the end of the first half of extra time, but Sevilla desperately needed to generate a chance of their own.

The effects of the long, intense match were being felt by all participants. 110 minutes into the match, the match official required medical attention himself for cramp.

As the match drew to a close, Barcelona only looked like increasing their lead. Almost every player on the pitch, apart from being booked, looked visibly shattered. Sevilla couldn't find a moment of magic nor a piece of luck, and Carrico was sent off after receiving a second yellow.

With Sevilla down to nine men, Neymar put the final nail in the coffin with a goal in the 122nd minute. The provider? Lionel Messi.

Barcelona's 28th Copa del Rey title was one to savor. 

Follow me on Twitter: @ConmanFleming

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