Luís Suárez and Neymar scored Barça’s three goals against Villareal (by FC Barcelona)

 

FC Barcelona are headed back to the final of the Spanish Cup. Neymar scored two minutes after the opening kick off and again two minutes from the final whistle to lead the Catalans to a commanding 3–1 win over hosts Villarreal in the return leg of the Cup quarter-final, booking Barça a trip to the title-match where they’ll face Athletic Club Bilbao.

Luís Suárez also struck for Barça as they silenced El Madrigal en route to knocking out the hosts 6–2 on aggregate. Jonathan Dos Santos managed the lone goal in the losing effort. Villarreal played the last 25 minutes with ten men as Tomás Pina was sent off after a vicious tackle on Neymar. And that wasn’t the only close-call for Barça, as Sergio Busquets left the game on a stretcher after what appeared to be an ugly ankle injury on the play that led to Villarreal’s only goal. Busquets made it back to the bench later in the game but the extent of his injury is still unknown.

Quick start

Before many fans had taken their seats, Barça had already managed to upend Villarreal’s plans for a comeback. Javier Mascherano started the play and switched fields for Leo Messi. The Argentinian curled a cross to the far post where Neymar used his feathery touch to lift the sphere over Villarreal keeper Sergio Asenjo and into the net, silencing the crowd.

The yellow submarine refused to fold so soon and answered over the following quarter hour with Denis Cheryshev, Luciano Vietto and Ikechukwu Uche unleashing a trifecta of close-range shots that were all detained by Barça netminder Marc-André Ter Stegen.

Timely equaliser

With Barça settling back in, Busquets fell victim to a fortuitous injury as Villarreal raced toward the Barça touchline. With the midfielder back up field writhing on the ground in agony, Dos Santos redirected a cross from Jaume Costa to knot it up at 1–1 on 39 minutes.

When play resumed after the half, Villarreal, still down 4–2 on aggregate, looked determined to make a statement. They were making headway when Pina took down Neymar with an ugly tackle on 65 minutes and was duly sent to the showers with a straight red card.

Late clinchers

While the hosts sensed the semi-finals slipping away, Barça did not relent. Neymar led a three-on-one counterattack in the 72nd but, perhaps with too many options to pass the ball, kept it himself and shot, with Asenjo making an excellent save. Three minutes later Mascherano again sliced open the field with a breathtaking outlet pass, this time to Suárez. The Uruguayan sprinted in on goal, evading a roving Asenjo, and slotting into an empty net for a 2–1 lead.

With Villarreal hanging their heads, down to ten men and behind 5–2 on aggregate, Neymar put the cherry on top in the 88th. Xavi Hernández floated a sublime centering pass with pinpoint accuracy, and the Brazilian headed in with aplomb, thus wrapping up a victory that sends Barça to their fifth Spanish Cup final in seven years.

 

Catalannewsagency

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