Sunday, May 28, 2017

FC Barcelona 3-1 Alaves: Messi, Neymar and Alcacer strike to send off Enrique in style

Lionel Messi will celebrate his 30th birthday next month with 30 trophies to his name after winning the Copa del Rey with Barcelona on Saturday night in Madrid.
He became the first player to score in four Spanish Cup finals since Telmo Zarra did it in 1950, winning the trophy for the fifth time in the process.

His contribution on the night was huge. He scored his team's first goal and set-up the third with a divine assist worthy of winning any final.

Neymar also scored as Barcelona beat plucky Alaves. In the first Spanish Cup final in their history they were a match for Barcelona but not for Messi.
Theo Hernandez got the goal of the night for them with a direct free-kick that will have pleased Real Madrid fans almost as much as Alaves supporters. He is set to sign for them this summer from his parent club Atletico Madrid for €30million (£26m).
It was Messi clocking up thirty pieces of silver that was the story of Luis Enrique's last game in charge of Barcelona. The coach leaves with nine trophies won from a possible 13. He will know much of that success is down to Messi – pity the first manager who comes in to this club and cannot rely on the Argentinian number 10.

Barcelona had struggled to sell out their 19,000 allocation for this game while Alaves, in their first ever Copa del Rey final, had brought more than 20,000, many without tickets. They whistled down the Barcelona team as it was read out – it was an XI without Luis Suarez and right-back Sergio Roberto, both suspended.
On nine minutes they lost stand-in right-back Javier Mascherano too. He clashed with Real Madrid loanee Marcos Llorente and while the Alaves player had to be bandaged-up the Barcelona man had to be carried off. Andre Gomes came on in his place.

On 23 minutes we had the first sighting of Messi's genius as he wriggled clear of three Alaves challenges only to be flattened on the edge of the area by Carlos Vigaray. The referee gave only a corner and the resulting kick came to nothing.

From their next counter Ibai Gomez forced a save from Jasper Cillessen at his near post with the ball rolling agonizingly along the goal-line and to safety after his block.
Messi does not, of course, have to be that close to goal to score and when he bent a trademark left-foot finish past Fernando Pacheco after a one-two with Neymar Barcelona were ahead. The lead lasted barely more than a minute.
With their next attack Alaves won a free-kick and Hernandez buried it. He probably won't get to take too many when he joins Real Madrid but this was some calling card to say how capable he is.

Messi had the best chance to restore the lead stinging Pacheco's hands with a free-kick Neymar then converted Andre Gomes' cross on 45 minutes. Barcelona looked like going down the tunnel minus Mascherano and with Samuel Umtiti on a booking after he fouled Deyverson and only one goal to the good. But up popped Messi again.

Time and space are not the same in Messi's universe. And seemingly with neither commodity in his favour, out on the right touchline he slalomed away form three Alaves defenders before slipping a pass into Paco Alcacer's path. The former Valencia man hit it first time, and with the last kick of the first half made it 3-1.
Alaves thought they had scored on 70 minutes but an offside flag cut-short their celebrations after Deyverson had converted.

Messi, who was booked in the second half for protesting, has now won eight league titles, four Champions Leagues, five Spanish Cups, three European Super Cups, three World Club Cups and seven Spanish Super Cups.
Andres Iniesta has the same haul. The pair will be back for another Super Cup in August against Champions Madrid.

In the mean time Messi can take a well-earned rest. Barcelona have fallen short at times this season but nobody has scored more goals than he has in Europe. When they have lost it has been in spite of him. When they have won it has been because of him.

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