Barça battle back against Sevilla to reach Copa del Rey final
Barcelona, Mar 3 (efe-epa).- FC Barcelona bested Sevilla 3-0 here Wednesday in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal for a 3-2 triumph on aggregate.
The Catalan club needed a goal in the 94th minute to force the tie into extra-time in pursuit of a record-extending 31st Copa del Rey title.
Knowing that the 2-0 edge from the first leg would likely not be enough, Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui sent out Youssef En-Nesyri and Luuk de Jong as dual strikers with the aim of getting a potentially decisive away goal at Camp Nou.
But Barça seized the initiative and never let go. The hosts had 68 percent possession and outshot the Andalusian side 22-6.
Barcelona came forward in waves and cut the deficit in half in the 12th minute, when Lionel Messi got the ball to Ousmane Dembele in the box and the Frenchman blasted it through a crowd into the top corner.
It was the first goal conceded by Sevilla in the competition.
The Blaugrana kept up the pressure and only a goal-line stop by Sevilla defender by Marcos Acuña prevented Messi from leveling the tie in the 32nd minute after Clement Lenglet and Pedri fired wide on chances engineered by the Barcelona captain.
Nine minutes into the second half, an injury to Aleix Vidal prompted Lopetegui to make a triple-change.
Jesus Navas stepped in for Vidal, while De Jong made way for former Barcelona man Ivan Rakitic and Karim Rekik replaced Acuña.
While Barça continued to set the pace, the pressure on the Sevilla back line eased and the visitors began to have more of the ball.
The home team looked set to go level in the 67th minute when Dembele found Jordi Alba at the far post, but the midfielder’s spectacular overhead volley bounced off the cross-bar.
Five minutes brought what could have been a turning point, as the referee pointed to the spot after Oscar Mingueza brought down Lucas Ocampos on a potent Sevilla counter.
The usually reliable Ocampos took the kick himself, but Barça keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen guessed right and stopped the Argentine.
Barcelona pushed relentlessly for the equalizer, yet they continued to trail 1-2 on aggregate at the end of regulation.
Messi tried his luck on a direct free-kick in the 93rd minute, only to see the strike deflected wide and the contest came down to a Barcelona corner in the final seconds.
Sevilla dealt with the initial effort, but failed to clear. Antoine Griezmann found Gerard Pique unmarked inside the six-yard box and the defender headed home.
The visitors faced extra-time down a man, as Fernando was sent off in the 92nd minute after picking up a second yellow card.
Messi nearly scored in the 2nd minute of extra-time and the eventual winner materialized just three minutes later, when Martin Braithwaite beat Sevilla keeper Tomas Vaclik with a diving header off a cross from Alba.
Before the end of the first extra-time period, three Sevilla players received yellow cards for dissent after the referee and VAR denied appeals for penalties for an alleged hand ball by Lenglet and a high boot on Ocampos.
And Luuk de Jong was shown a red card for protesting from the side line.