Coutinho Debuts As Barca Progress To Copa Del Rey Semis
Copa Del Rey Report: FC Barcelona v Espanyol 25 January 2018
Spanish Copa del Rey
Result: FC Barcelona 2-0 Espanyol (2-1 agg.)
Date: 25 January 2018
Venue: Camp Nou
FC Barcelona secured their place in the Copa del Rey semi-finals with a 2-0 victory over local rivals Espanyol at Camp Nou in Thursday night’s quarter-final second leg, sealing a 2-1 aggregate victory.
The Blaugrana came out guns blazing, hungry to avenge their 1-0 first leg defeat. It only took until the ninth minute for them to reverse their deficit. Aleix Vidal’s cross from the right found Luis Suárez at the far post and the Uruguayan nodded home effortlessly.
Almost inevitably, Barcelona then took the aggregate lead in the 25th minute. Lionel Messi’s wickedly deflected shot from just outside the box wrong-footed former Tottenham keeper Pau López and found the back of the net.
Messi continued to cause nightmares for the Espanyol defence and persistently threatened to score his second goal before the half-time break. However, the visitors did just enough to prevent that.
The second half got off to a slow start, with Barcelona looking comfortable. Ernesto Valverde decided to bring new signing Philippe Coutinho into the fray 67 minutes in, taking off Andrés Iniesta.
Coutinho nearly bagged an assist just seven minutes after coming on, setting up Suárez for a close-range shot with a pass from the left. López reacted brilliantly to deny first the former Liverpool striker and then Ivan Rakitic on the follow-up.
In the 88th minute, Messi came agonisingly close to sealing the tie, heading against the post after meeting a delightful Rakitic cross.
Although they could easily have scored more goals, the defending champions nevertheless prevailed, keeping their hopes of a third treble in nine years alive. Espanyol gave a good account of themselves, but were simply outclassed in the end.