Barcelona thump Elche to seal quarterfinal date vs. Atletico Madrid
Barcelona booked a mouth-watering Copa del Rey quarterfinal against Atletico Madrid after beating Elche 4-0 on the night and 9-0 on aggregate.
Luis Enrique’s side, which won the first leg 5-0, sealed a spot in the last eight thanks to first-half goals from Jeremy Mathieu, Sergi Roberto and Pedro in the return game on Thursday. The Catalan giant has met Atleti just once – a 3-1 victory on Sunday – since an epic clash at Camp Nou on the final day of last season.
Both sides needed a win to secure the Liga title, while a draw was enough for Atleti – a scenario that became a reality after Diego Godin cancelled out Alexis Sanchez’s stunning first-half strike. The result meant Barcelona ended the season without a major trophy for the first time since the 2007-08 season.
Things are on the up under new coach Luis Enrique, though, and Barca knows that if the club can overcome Atleti then it will be the favorite to lift Copa del Rey for a record 27th time after Real Madrid was knocked out, also on Thursday. With Barca’s progression virtually secured, Mathieu opened the scoring in the second leg with a superb 25-yard free kick.
Sergi then fired in a long-distance effort of his own before Pedro continued his love affair with the Copa del Rey, netting a 43rd-minute penalty. Highly rated youngster Alen Halilovic hit the post in the second half as Barca pressed for a fourth goal that eventually came in the 91st minute thanks to an Adriano header.
Both sides made wholesale changes with Luis Enrique calling up six players from Barcelona’s B team. That saw Munir El Haddadi and Adama Traore join Pedro in Barca’s front three, while Elche made nine alterations.
Elche should have been one down in the first 10 minutes, only for Adriano to scuff an effort wide after impressive work from Sergi. The home side was not without its own chances, but Mathieu’s brilliance gave Barcelona the lead. Elche captain Edu Albacar scythed Traore down, giving Mathieu a free kick from distance, and the Frenchman made no mistake, curling a left-footed effort into the top right corner in the 21st minute.
Goalkeeper Manu Herrera got fingertips to the effort, but could not keep it out and Barca doubled the advantage five minutes before the break. Sergi simply controlled a pass by taking a touch before unleashing a fierce effort into the left corner from 20 yards.
It was 3-0 when Sergio Pelegrin brought down Munir with a lunge in the penalty area and Pedro made no mistake from the penalty spot, coolly slotting into the left corner. Martin Montoya and Traore just missed the target early in the second half for Barca, while at the other end, Ferran Corominas agonizingly failed to get anything on the end of Albacar’s excellent cross.
Teenage midfielder Halilovic nearly capped his competitive debut for Barcelona with a goal, only for the upright to keep out his curling left-footed effort. The 18-year-old Croatian’s cameo was the highlight of a dull second half, with the match petering out significantly in the latter stages, as Barca began to think of another clash against Diego Simeone’s Atletico.
There was still time for Barcelona to score again, though, with the visiting side capping an impressive away win with Adriano’s stoppage-time goal.
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