Football: Messi free-kick magic sends Barca into Cup quarters
BARCELONA: Lionel Messi’s third goal from a free-kick in as many games this year secured Barcelona’s place in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey as the holders beat Athletic Bilbao 3-1 to edge through 4-3 on aggregate.
Luis Suarez’s 100th Barca goal and Neymar’s penalty cancelled out Athletic’s 2-1 first leg lead, but Enric Saborit’s header six minutes into the second-half had the tie headed for extra time.
However, just as in the first leg and in a 1-1 draw at Villarreal on Sunday, Messi rode to Barca’s rescue with another exquisite free-kick that clipped the inside of the post on its way past Gorka Iraizoz.
The build-up to the game had been dominated by talk of controversial refereeing calls in the first leg as Athletic ended the game with nine men, whilst Barca had a stonewall penalty claim waived away.
And there was more controversy on 26 minutes when Neymar was wrongly flagged offside as he set up Suarez for a tap in.
However, the same combination wasn’t to be denied 10 minutes before half-time when Neymar’s cross was hammered into the far corner by Suarez to bring up his Barca century.
Suarez’s strike was also the 300th goal scored by Barca’s fearsome “MSN” forward line since he joined the club in 2014 with Messi netting 124 and Neymar 76.