Barcelona took a huge step towards a fifth Copa del Rey final in seven years with a 3-1 win over Villarreal in the first leg of their semi-final.
Lionel Messi opened the scoring yesterday from Luis Suarez’s cutback four minutes before the break, but Villarreal levelled shortly after half-time when Marc-Andre Ter Stegen failed to keep out Manu Trigueros’s drive.
However, Barca were back in front within a minute through Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique’s header 26 minutes from time made it 3-1.
The Catalans could have had an even healthier advantage to take into the second leg on March 4, but Neymar had his penalty saved by Sergio Asenjo.
“I think it was a very good performance on our part against an opponent that was more defensive than we expected, but against a very good team. It is a good result, although it isn’t definitive,” said Barca boss Luis Enrique.
“It could have been even better with the penalty we missed, but it is a good result and deserved based on what we saw on the pitch.”
Villarreal coach Marcelino meanwhile described his side’s evening like a “horror film” having not only lost the match but captain Bruno and former Barca midfielder Jonathan dos Santos to injury.
“This game seemed lke a horror film. Barcelona took advantage of our mistakes and scored the type of goals we didn’t expect.
“We have two injuries, one of which could be serious. I am sad for all these combined circumstances that mean we are much further away from reaching the final.”
All of Villarreal’s good defensive work in the opening 45 minutes was undone four minutes before half-time when Mateo Musacchio slipped to allow Suarez to rob possession and he squared for Messi to slot home his 11th goal in his last nine games.