Luis Suarez Winner Gives Barcelona Advantage over Valencia in Copa del Rey Leg 1

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2018

FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, left, with Valencia's Francis Coquelin during the Spanish Copa del Rey, semifinal, first leg, soccer match between FC Barcelona and Valencia at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Luis Suarez scored the only goal in Barcelona's 1-0 Copa del Rey win over Valencia on Thursday, giving the Catalans a slim advantage heading into the second leg.

Suarez scored his goal midway through the second half in what was a dull affair. Los Che barely ventured into the Blaugrana half in the early going and improved slightly after the break, while Barcelona had all kinds of possession but lacked the killer instinct in the attacking third.

Here's a look at the teams:

Valencia rested a ton of stars, including Geoffrey Kondogbia and Goncalo Guedes, with a trip to Atletico Madrid in La Liga on the schedule. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the hosts overran the backups in the early stages.

Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitic both tried their luck from long range, and Suarez almost got on the end of a Jordi Alba cross. Barcelona dominated possession but didn't muster many chances, and their finishing was off.

Aleix Vidal accidentally ended a smart run from Messi by getting in his way, and a poor touch from Suarez saw Jaume Domenech cut out a counter. AS English noted Valencia weren't doing much:

Sergi Roberto was booked for a wild tackle, where he appeared to kick Andreas Pereira in the groin. Marca in English shared this image:

Suarez missed the half's best chance, failing to connect with a great pass from Andres Iniesta with the goal begging. Gerard Pique also went close, but Jaume's sure hands prevented major damage, and Luciano Vietto put the last chance of the half wide.

Jaume easily saved a tame Suarez effort to start the second half, and Messi put a shot into the side netting. Rodrigo put Jasper Cillessen to work for the first time, and Valencia got more of a hold in midfield.

Football writer Samuel Marsden thought Barcelona needed a change:

Messi fired a free-kick straight at Jaume before Suarez finally opened the scoring with just over 20 minutes to play. Messi picked out the Uruguayan with a good cross, and his header took a slight deflection off Jose Gaya before going in.

AS English praised the provider:

Francis Coquelin almost tied things up with a good shot from long range, with the ball landing on top of the goal. Messi's free-kick had a similar outcome, and Paco Alcacer fired a great shot at goal that Jaume had all kinds of trouble with.

The Argentinian went close from a set piece one more time, but there were no more goals. 

The return leg will be played on February 8 at the Mestalla Stadium.

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