Two goals and two assists from Lionel Messi helped Barcelona defeat cross-town rivals Espanyol 4-1 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey round of 16 clash. The match saw Espanyol end the game with 9 men, in what turned out to be an ill-tempered encounter.
The two teams had met each other last weekend in the league, with Espanyol doing very well to hold Barcelona to a goalless draw in that match. It seemed that they were carrying on here from where they left off in that match, dominating Barcelona in the initial exchanges and taking the lead in the 9th minute through striker Felipe Caicedo.
Caicedo scored after spinning around Javier Mascherano brilliantly, following a great run and pass from Marco Asensio. The Camp Nou was silenced temporarily, but they soon found their voice again thanks to Lionel Messi. The Argentine international took a pass from Iniesta and finished calmly, making the scores 1-1 in the 13th minute.
Just before half-time, the Catalan giants took the lead thanks to another goal from Lionel Messi, this time from a free-kick that he himself earned. After being fouled, he stepped up to strike an unstoppable shot that hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced into the goal.
As soon as the 2nd half started, the home team had virtually assured themselves of a win, scoring their 3rd goal through Gerard Pique, whose sneaky run was spotted very well by Messi. The central defender made no mistake and converted his chance without any difficulty.
Espanyol were then reduced to 10 men after defender Hernan Perez received his second yellow card for pulling Jordi Alba back. That dismissal reduced their chances of making a comeback into the match, which were completely wiped out in the 76th minute when Papakouli Diop was given his marching orders for a second booking for continuously talking trash away from the ball.
Both the players would also miss the 2nd leg clash at the Cornella-El-Prat. The Blaugrana then scored their 4th goal, as Neymar finished spectacularly after being setup by the team's talisman, Lionel Messi.
The match was also an important game for Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, both summer signings of Barcelona, who made their first appearances for the club. Turan found a place in the starting line-up while Vidal was brought on from the bench. Both showed that they were in decent shape and add some much-needed depth to the current squad. Though they had been signed in the summer, they had to wait till January 2016 for the transfer ban on Barcelona to be lifted.
The second leg of the round of 16 clash will be played on the 14th of January (IST).Published 07 Jan 2016, 07:42 IST