Highlights: Copa del Rey: Barcelona 3-1 Athletic Bilbao; Barca one step away from the treble
Barcelona completed the double with a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final. Neymar’s goal was sandwiched between Lionel Messi’s brace, while Inaki Williams got the consolation goal for Bilbao.
A week after lifting the La Liga trophy, Barca played Athletic at the Camp Nou in their quest of a 27th Copa title. Bilbao, who had got the better of Espanyol in the semi-final, were gunning for their 24th Copa win.
Bilbao got a sign of things to come when in the 10th minute Neymar’s volley hit the back of the net, but the referee ruled it out for offside. However, 10 minutes later, Barcelona broke the deadlock through Lionel Messi.
The Argentinian received the ball just inside the Bilbao half near the right touchline and he embarked on a run that will go down in history. Despite being surrounded by 3 Athletic defenders, Messi found a way past them and carried the ball to the box. Once inside the penalty area, he beat another defender by wrong-footing him and with a sight of goal, finished the move by beating the keeper on his near post.
In the 37th minute, Neymar put the finishing touches on a complete team goal. Ivan Rakitic found Luis Suarez inside the penalty area and the Uruguayan attracted the attention of the entire Bilbao defence. Just when it looked like he would shoot, the former Liverpool striker squared the ball to a waiting Neymar near the far post, who tapped the ball in an empty net.
However, Athletic showed they aren’t there just to make up the numbers as Williams shook the post with a well-timed volley four minutes before the half to send a warning to the Liga champions that the match is still left.
The second half started with Barcelona keeping possession and Bilbao pressing hard trying to get something out of the game. In the 56th minute, outgoing midfield general Xavi replaced Andres Iniesta to a rousing welcome at the Camp Nou.
In the 74th minute, Messi put the result beyond doubt when he scored his second of the game after good work by Dani Alves on the byline. In front a vociferous crowd, 20-year-old Inaki Williams showed his talent 5 minutes later when he rose highest to head the ball into goal after an Ibai Gomez cross.
With the deficit reduced to 2, Bilbao tried hard to get the goals that would have taken the match into extra time. However, with Barcelona keeping possession, the Basque players got frustrated and after Neymar beat Unai Bustinza with a sensational piece of skill, the two sets of players got into a scuffle.
When Barca were awarded a free-kick for another foul on the Brazilian, Xavi stepped up to sign off from the Copa del Rey in sensational style, but, his shot hit the post. The referee blew the whistle soon after and the match ended 3-1 as Barcelona sealed their sixth domestic double and are one step away from a treble with Juventus, who can also win the treble having won the domestic double, waiting for them in the UEFA Champions League final next week.