Vicious Barcelona tear Valencia apart, eye Copa del Rey final
Barcelona ripped Valencia apart as they took charge of their Copa del Rey semifinal Wednesday night, winning the first leg in a 7-0 rout at the Camp Nou.
Luis Suarez scored twice in 12 minutes on his way to a four-goal night, Lionel Messi added the first of his three and the Catalans missed other chances as they completely dominated, reducing Valencia's defensive effort to chasing shadows. Messi had a hat trick by the 75th minute and Suarez claimed his third goal in the 83rd before adding one more with three minutes of normal time remaining as the onslaught continued against ten men in the second half.
The second leg must be played next Wednesday at Valencia, but with Barcelona poised to advance to the May 21 final it's a mere formality. The other semifinal kicks off Thursday with Sevilla at home to Celta Vigo in their first leg encounter.
"What my players did in this game should be celebrated," Barca boss Luis Enrique told reporters after the win. "We have to congratulate the players. They have all played well, with effectiveness up front. They should be celebrated for the great players they are. We have an objective and that is to win trophies again. If we can delight the fans — even better."
Gary Neville had his Valencia team come out with five men stretched across the back, but the effect was Swiss Cheese rather than a staunch defense to cause problems for a Barcelona group of magicians in top form. Suarez had the Blaugrana ahead in the seventh minute when he raced into space on the right to accept a pass from Neymar, who had been allowed to run some 40 meters unhindered after accepting a giveaway on the halfway line.
Jose Gaya was left in the dust while Aderlan Santos could not close the gap between himself and Suarez before the Uruguayan drove the ball across goalkeeper Matt Ryan into the far corner. Five minutes later it was 2-0, this time Suarez profiting from a neatly-timed drop pass from Aleix Vidal after Sergio Busquets had sprung Vidal, again ripping the left side of the visiting defense apart with a lead pass.
Barcelona was always creating chances while Valencia watched when they couldn't get near the ball. Suarez almost found Messi with a 22nd minute pass then Andres Iniesta did connect with the little man as he ran the inside left channel before crossing. Messi collected, stepped between defenders and went in alone on Ryan to finish easily.
Barcelona should have been ahead 5-0 before halftime. First Suarez again burst away from what passed for Valencia cover and crossed for Messi to smack a shot off the crossbar. Two minutes later Messi got on the end of a long ball and was brought down by Shkodran Mustafi while driving into the box. Replays showed Mustafi got the ball before taking down Messi but his appeals did not impress Ignacio Iglesias Villaneuva, who showed the red card.
Neymar spared Valencia full punishment when he hit the right post from the spot, but the visitors were left to face their deficit with only 10 men and no idea how to stem the tide. Messi might have scored twice before he made it 4-0, holding off the challenge of Gaya as he ran onto a Suarez back-heel into the box. Moving to his left, Messi shook off the attentions of the defender, then cut the ball back to low right corner as he strode left.
He completed his hat trick in the 74th minute thanks to a comedy of errors at the back. First Gaya sliced a clearance attempt toward Daniel Parejo who failed to control at the top of his own box. Messi stripped him, circled to his left and then beat Ryan to the right corner.
Suarez got his third in the 83rd minute, Messi igniting the move when he spotted Adriano with all kinds of room to attack down the left. The cross came through to the far post where Suarez was lurking, driving his header home at the near post. His fourth was a right-foot strike that went in off the near post.
Valencia had a goal chalked off when substitute Denis Cheryshev was offside before finishing, but for most of the night could do little or nothing to relieve the Barcelona pressure and total control.
Enrique added: "The three forwards have been unstoppable in many matches and they were effective again here. But the midfielders also interpreted the game really well and our opponents didn't have options to win. We are going to take the second leg as seriously as any other match and we also want to win that. The aim is to keep winning and that would not have changed whatever this result was."
Information from Goal.com was used in this report.