Copa del Rey: Coutinho Barca debut goal secures final ticket

Copa Del Rey By: Ambrose Udeme | 08/02/2018

Philippe Coutinho, Barcelona

Philippe Coutinho's first goal in a Barcelona shirt was enough for the holders to edge Valencia 2-0 at Mestalla in Thursday's Copa del Rey second leg fixture and set-up a final showdown with Sevilla following a 2-0 aggregate win.  

A repeat of the first leg result at Camp Nou after 45 minutes played out at Estadio de Mestalla on Thursday as both sides hit the tunnel at halftime goalless. Valencia came closest to scoring, but Barcelona were in cruise control for the most part.

GOALS

Lionel Messi, Philippe Coutinho, Barcelona

Coutinho's introduction after the break yielded immediate dividend as he broke the deadlock just three minutes after coming on for Andre Gomes. The Brazilian latched on to a Luis Suarez cross before executing a perfect sliding finish across Domenech and into the back of the net for his first Barcelona goal.

Ivan Rakitic's right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner with Suarez again providing the assist sealed the win for the visitors who are through to the final of this season's Copa del Rey with a 3-0 aggregate win.

Barcelona join Sevilla, who have already reached the final after beating Leganes on Wednesday with a 2-0 aggregate win.

SETTING THE SCENE

Barca boss Ernesto Valverde put out a strong side that included Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in attack.

Barcelona benched Philippe Coutinho and Valencia named three strikers for Thursday's Copa del Rey semi-final second leg showdown. Coutinho's place was taken by Andre Gomes, with the Catalans switching back to a 4-4-2 formation.

Elsewhere, cup goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was between the sticks, Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba came into the full-back positions and Paulinho was replaced with Ivan Rakitic.

Valencia coach Marcelino knew he had to overturn a lone goal deficit and he threw caution to the wind, lining up with an attacking trident of Luciano Vietto, Simone Zaza and Rodrigo Moreno.

Nonetheless, history is on Barca's side as they have gone through on all six occasions in the Copa when they had won the first leg 1-0.

HOW IT HAPPENED

No love was lost on the hosts' part as they went in hard on the cup holders, and their approach almost yielded a goal, only for the crossbar to prevent Rodrigo Moreno's towering header from going in.

Jasper Cillessen went on to push another Rodrigo attempt away, but those aside, Barca dominated possession and played some mesmerising football, with Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta at the heart of it.

The pair regularly skipped past challenges and attracted fouls, but Messi's curling free kick was acrobatically punched away by Jaume Domenech, while Luis Suarez's first touch twice let him down when it mattered.

More to follow...
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