Unselfish Lionel Messi Inspires Barcelona to Copa Del Rey Win over Villarreal

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2015

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CAMP NOU, Barcelona—Neymar had been having a poor game, probably the worst of his season to date. But when Barcelona got a penalty, Lionel Messi allowed the Brazilian to take the ball.

It was an unselfish move from the Barcelona superstar, who usually manages dead-ball situations by himself, especially those from 12 yards.

Despite Messi's generosity, it didn't work out well for Barcelona, with an abject spot-kick easily pushed away by Sergio Asenjo.

But Barcelona are a side built on teamwork and have been for years, even if that teamwork is now more about the collaborations between the front three than the men in the middle.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 11:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates with his teammate Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona after scoring the opening goal during the Copa del Rey Semi-Final first leg match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal CF at Camp Nou on
David Ramos/Getty Images

Not that the other players don't create a formidable backing for the strikers.

Javier Mascherano was a sheepdog, harrying the Villarreal midfield to get the ball back, while the sheer size of Gerard Pique and Jeremy Mathieu made you feel sorry for little Luciano Vietto.

But the man who netted his 34th goal of yet another splendid season to open the scoring was also the key to Barcelona's 3-1 victory over Villarreal in the Copa del Rey semi-final.

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Yes, it was Messi who found the net again, keeping a cool head to fire past Asenjo from Luis Suarez's cutback.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 11:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona scores the opening goal during the Copa del Rey Semi-Final first leg match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal CF at Camp Nou on February 11, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Ge
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He had spent the first 40 minutes of the game patiently sand-wedging balls into the box from the right, where he plays to accommodate Suarez as the central striker.

Each of Messi's chipped passes caused danger in the box, although they didn't eventually lead to a goal.

Villarreal fell on their own sword somewhat, as Tomas Pina's poor pass put Mateo Musacchio in trouble, but the defender let himself down by falling meekly under Suarez's challenge.

The former Liverpool star was extremely unselfish, despite what would have been a huge urge to shoot, and set up Messi for the opener.

Messi's celebration was unselfish, too, as he jumped into Suarez's arms to show the fans who deserved the credit.

Suarez, who was having one of his best games in a Barcelona shirt, was part of the second goal, too.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 11:  Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona competes for the ball with Mateo Musacchio of Villarreal CF during the Copa del Rey Semi-Final first leg match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal CF at Camp Nou on February 11, 2015 in Barcelon
David Ramos/Getty Images

He tried to play a one-two with Andres Iniesta but tumbled under Mario's challenge in the box. It made no difference, though, as the midfielder was there anyway to fire Barcelona back in front after Manu Trigueros had equalised.

This wasn't one of Messi's star performances, but his unselfishness and willingness to create openings for his team-mates were the keys to Barcelona's victory.

If even a star player will go the extra mile for you, then you will do the same for him.

As Luis Enrique has been saying for weeks, he doesn't mind if Suarez isn't scoring goals as long as he's playing well and keeping the team in mind.

Messi did that on Wednesday, and Barcelona are now on the verge of a Copa del Rey final.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 11:  Neymar of FC Barcelona looks on during the Copa del Rey Semi-Final first leg match between FC Barcelona and Villarreal CF at Camp Nou on February 11, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

For the Yellow Submarine to deny them, they must now score three times at El Madrigal against Barcelona, assuming the Catalans notch at least one.

Even if Marc-Andre ter Stegen is feeling as generous as he was here, that's a big ask, particularly when Messi is in this form and Suarez seems to have sorted himself out. 

Neymar wasn't at the races in this game; if the Copa del Rey is going to be dressed in any colours other than Blaugrana, Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao and Espanyol will need that to happen again, with Messi and Suarez matching his poor form for good measure.