NEWS

Sensational Messi scores twice as Barca beat Athletic to win Copa del Rey

Sunday, April 18, 2021

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MADRID, Spain (AFP) — Lionel Messi scored twice, including a stunning solo goal, as Barcelona blew away Athletic Bilbao to win the Copa del Rey yesterday, consigning their opponents to a second final defeat in two weeks.

The cup was won and lost in a whirlwind 12 minutes in Seville, which saw Barca score four times to clinch an emphatic 4-0 victory, with Messi at his devastating best.

It remains to be seen if his seventh Copa del Rey triumph is the last trophy Messi lifts in Barcelona colours but if this was to be a final flourish, the 33-year-old crafted a fitting farewell.

Messi's first goal, and Barca's third, started with the Argentinian in his own half before a charging run down the right and a surge forward into the penalty area gave him the chance for a simple finish.

With the club's new president, Joan Laporta, in the crowd, Ronald Koeman's first title as Barcelona coach should significantly boost his chances of remaining in charge beyond the summer.

Koeman took over a team at rock bottom, humiliated by an historic loss to Bayern Munich and wounded by the attempts of Messi to leave the club for free.

But this 31st Copa del Rey success for the club is a testament to progress made and Koeman will hope it not only helps convince Messi to stay but gives Barca some much-needed momentum now in a neck-and-neck title race in La Liga.

Messi was sent off when Athletic Bilbao beat Barcelona, also at the La Cartuja, in January to win the Spanish Super Cup but they never looked like pulling off a repeat.

After Athletic lost to their Basque rivals Real Sociedad in last year's postponed final only two weeks ago, lifting themselves for another showpiece, against a tougher opponent, was always going to be a big ask.

Barcelona were almost ahead after four minutes as Sergio Busquets played in Messi, who rolled back for Frenkie de Jong but his sidefooted finish came back off the far post.