Barça pummel Athletic Bilbao to win 31st Copa del Rey

Seville, Spain, Apr 17 (EFE).- FC Barcelona thrashed Athletic Bilbao 4-0 here Saturday in the 2021 Copa del Rey final, hoisting the trophy for a record-extending 31st time.

Though all four goals came in the space of 12 minutes mid-way through the second half, the Blaugrana were dominant from the start of the contest at La Cartuja stadium in Seville, where Athletic, who are second in Copa titles with 23, lost the long-delayed 2020 final to Real Sociedad just two weeks ago.

Captain Lionel Messi, acclaimed as man of the match, had a brace to become the all-time scoring leader in Copa del Rey finals.

It was also a triumph for Ronald Koeman, a member of the Barcelona squad that won LaLiga four years in a row in the 1990s who celebrated his first trophy since taking charge of the team as coach last summer.

Given the 28 points that separate third-place Barça from 11th-place Athletic in the LaLiga table, the Catalan side were the clear favorites.

Yet Athletic beat Barcelona here in January in the Spanish Super Cup and the Bilbao club’s proud history in the Copa del Rey created grounds to hope for a competitive game.

But Barça’s superiority was clear from the start. They would go on to have 77 percent possession and put eight shots on target to just one for Athletic.

Only the post stopped Frenkie de Jong from giving Barcelona the lead in the 5th minute, while Messi saw a promising strike blocked behind for a corner in the 11th minute, seconds before Iñigo Martinez fired wide on a free-kick that would prove to be Athletic’s only chance of the first half.

Three minutes into the second half, Athletic goalkeeper Unai Simon made a tremendous save to deny Antoine Griezmann from close range.

Simon shined again in the 52nd minute, when he stopped Pedri, and seconds later against Sergio Busquets.

The inevitable breakthrough materialized at the hour mark with a goal from Griezmann, assisted by De Jong, who made it 2-0 in the 63rd minute, heading in a cross from Jordi Alba.

Messi scored five minutes later and added a second goal in the 72nd minute.

Griezmann looked to have made it 5-0 with four minutes left in regulation, but the goal was disallowed for an offside.

After watching from the stands with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and other dignitaries, King Felipe VI presented the Copa del Rey trophy to Messi. EFE cc/dr

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