Barcelona will face Real Madrid in the mouth-watering final of the Copa del Rey after they concluded a straightforward semi-final victory over Real Sociedad on Wednesday.
Leading 2-0 from the first leg, Gerardo Martino’s side extended their advantage thanks to Lionel Messi’s record-equalling strike, with Antoine Griezmann’s late strike proving little more than a consolation as Sociedad drew 1-1 at Anoeta, losing 3-1 on aggregate.
Messi’s 27th-minute goal saw him equal Telmo Zarra’s 59-year Spanish record for the most goals scored by a single player for the same club, taking him to a total of 335 in Blaugrana colours.
More immediately, however, the away finish effectively clinched his side’s progression to meet arch-rivals Real in April’s final, leaving Sociedad with the near-impossible task of scoring four times in order to progress.
They managed the first of them thanks to Griezmann’s emphatic finish after a rare incisive breakaway from the home side but, with just three minutes remaining, the tie had already long gone by that point.
Real Madrid progressed to the final on Tuesday, completing an impressive 5-0 aggregate victory over cross-city rivals Atletico Madrid.
A more cohesive and fluid performance than we have seen from Barcelona in recent weeks was ironically capped by a fine solo goal from Messi. He took advantage of a misplaced pass in the Sociedad midfield to embark on a trademark mazy run into the opposition half before firing a low shot that squirmed under the goalkeeper and in off the post.
That came just before the half-hour mark, and it calmed Barcelona down, allowing them to pass the ball patiently and continue to test the Sociedad defence.
However, another goal would not be forthcoming, with Sociedad eventually grabbing a draw on the night and a consolation overall with Griezmann’s fine strike.
Sergio Canales' cross-field ball freed Castro on the left, and his half-volley to the edge of the box was met by Griezmann, who brutally fired his first-time effort beyond Jose Pinto to destroy the goalkeeper’s hopes of a clean sheet.
Nevertheless, the goal did not endanger Barcelona’s progression. Once again, they will fight their historic rivals for a major trophy.
Per AFP, Martino said afterwards:
There were three objectives this year and we have managed to make the final in one of them. Now we have to try and win it, but we have complied with the demands until now.
It is a long way away, it is a Clasico so it always has special importance. Madrid winning last night made it even more important for us not to miss this special date.
But it is hard to make a judgement because the final is still two months away. There are loads of important games between now and then for both teams and we don't know how both sides will get there in terms of form, confidence or injuries.
|Barcelona Player Ratings|
|Real Sociedad Player Ratings|
The final of the Copa del Rey is scheduled for April 19.
Barcelona's next league engagement is at home to Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, while Real Sociedad travel to struggling Malaga two days later.
The two sides meet again, once more at Anoeta, in La Liga on February 22.