Barça, Sevilla advance to Copa del Rey quarterfinals

Sports Desk, Jan 27 (efe-epa).- Barcelona had to come from behind Wednesday to beat second-division Rayo Vallecano 1-2 and claim a berth in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey, while Sevilla coasted to a 3-0 win over Valencia.

Lionel Messi, back on the pitch for the Blaugrana after serving a two-game suspension, tested Rayo goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski in the 11th minute of the contest in Vallecas and the Macedonian went on to make a good save against Francisco Trincao after Barça’s Frenkie de Jong hit the cross-bar.

Dimitrievski got help from the post to deny Riqui Puig in the 35th minute and the first half ended without a goal.

Messi looked a good bet to give the visitors the lead when he struck a free-kick from a dangerous position in the 48th minute, but the cross-bar intervened again.

The first sign of life from Rayo on the attack came in the 56th minute courtesy of Alvaro Garcia, whose shot was blocked by Clement Lenglet.

Eight minutes later, Alvaro sent a cross into the box that went through the hands of Barça keeper Neto and rolled to Fran Garcia for the easy goal to make it 1-0.

Rayo’s euphoria was short-lived, as Messi equalized for Barcelona in the 69th minute with an assist from Antoine Griezmann. The Catalan club went ahead to stay in the 80th on a goal by De Jong.

Sevilla had a much easier time of it earlier Wednesday against fellow LaLiga side Valencia.

In a top-flight dominated by Real Madrid, Barcelona and – lately – Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Sevilla have increasingly looked to the Copa del Rey as their chance to shine.

Copa ties between the two sides are traditionally entertaining, but Valencia, now 14th in LaLiga, were not in a position to put up much of a fight on Wednesday.

Already missing seven regular starters to injury, Valencia coach Javi Gracia fielded nine subs to rest some of his remaining healthy starters for the battle to avoid relegation.

Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui made only three changes to his usual lineup, including a rare start for Luuk de Jong, who made the most of the opportunity.

The Dutchman had a brace and Ivan Rakitic scored in the 38th minute to put the hosts up 3-0 before the break. EFE


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