Thursday, 14 January 2016

Espanyol 0-2 Barcelona (agg. 1-6): Munir double sends visitors into Copa quarter Final

Barcelona are through to the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey following their 2-0 victory over Espanyol in the last 16 second leg on Wednesday night at Cornellà-El Prat.
Munir scored a goal in each half to give Barcelona a 6-1 victory on aggregate in the third match between these two teams in the last 11 days.

Fresh off the heels of a triumphant visit to Switzerland on Monday to collect his fifth Ballon d'Or, Lionel Messi was once again part of manager Luis Enrique's starting XI, with Munir and joining the Argentine as a front two. In midfield it was Ivan Rakitic, Sergi Roberto, Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan, while in the back goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen was shielded by a defensive quartet of Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano, Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu.
Despite all the bad blood from the first leg, Wednesday's return leg started off in fairly tame fashion, with the stadium far from capacity, thus creating a far less hostile environment for Barcelona. With a 4-1 advantage on aggregate, Luis Enrique's team were more than happy to remain patient stay and spread the ball around without any hurry.
The first real chance of the match did not arrive until the 24th minute when Messi made a solo run into the Espanyol area but his shot was parried away by Espanyol goalkeeper Francesco Bardi.
However, overall, the tempo was slow in the first half but just when a lull was starting to settle in, Barcelona struck to open the scoring in the 32nd minute. Instead of scoring this time it was Messi who created the goal with a superb assist to set up Munir. The Argentine played in a perfect through ball to the young forward, who then rounded Bardi before poking a shot home to give Barcelona 1-0 lead.
Things got chippy after the Barcelona goal, as twice Messi was hacked down by the Espanyol defense before halftime, sending a jolt of fear into Barcelona fans worldwide. There was also an elbow from Felipe Caicedo to the face of Ter Stegen that forced a stoppage of play.
On the brink of halftime Caicedo had a golden opportunity to level the match when Vermaelen allowed a ball to get past, but the Ecuadorian lofted his shot right over an onrushing Ter Stegen and the crossbar. Six minutes after the break Caicedo again was into the Barcelona area and this time got a shot on target, but Ter Stegen did well to get low and save the Ecuadorian's effort. One minute later Caicedo again was on goal but failed to finish after slight contact from Mascherano and then Ter Stegen.
Like in the first half, the pace of the match slowed during the second stanza and by the final 20 minutes there was a noticeable lack of energy among the 22 players on the pitch. There was another slight scare for Barcelona when Messi was taken down by Espanyol defender Victor Álvarez in the 79th minute, but the Argentine got to his feet moments later and appeared to be fine.
Barcelona then added a late goal in the 88th minute to cap off the match, with Turan dishing to Vidal whose cross allowed an easy tap-in for Munir to make it 2-0 in the match and 6-1 on aggregate.
Fortunately for Luis Enrique, the match ended without any further incidents or injuries, as Barcelona took another step toward defending their Copa crown. Barcelona will return to La Liga action on Sunday with a home date versus Athletic Bilbao.

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