Wednesday, January 24, 2018 | ePaper

Messi stars with brace as Barcelona cruise past Celta Vigo

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FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi (second left) duels for the ball against Celta de Vigo's Jonny Castro (left) during the Spanish Copa del Rey round of 16 second leg soccer match between FC Barcelona and Celta de Vigo at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spa

Agency :
Lionel Messi scored twice as holders Barcelona cruised into the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey with a 5-0 victory over Celta Vigo at the Camp Nou on Thursday night.
The tie was delicately poised at 1-1 after a first leg in which Celta played extremely well against, admittedly, an under-strength Barca team but Ernesto Valverde recalled the likes of Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi for the return match and the Catalans blitzed their opponents with an utterly dominant first-half display.
Messi scored two quick goals and then set up Alba before Suarez netted the fourth goal with just 31 minutes on the clock.
Barcelona took their foot off the pedal in the second half and Ivan Rakitic completed the scoring three minutes from time.
Celta followed up their impressive performance in the first leg with another excellent showing at the weekend to draw against Real Madrid. It was always going to be a big ask for a third high-intensity display in a week and they looked off the pace from the beginning.
Messi almost got in behind the Celta defence on two occasions early on but each time the visitors managed to scramble the ball clear. The Argentina international then worked goalkeeper Sergio Alvarez with a shot from the edge of the area.
It would not be long before he was on the scoresheet, though. Alba did well down the left and put a low cross into the box which Suarez left for Messi to sweep home after 13 minutes. Two minutes later the same combination linked up again as Messi poked home another Alba cross.
A last-ditch block denied Iniesta a goal after he was set up by a delightful back-heel by Messi. Having been teed-up by Alba for both his goals, the five-time FIFA Player of the Year returned the favour in the 28th minute with a lovely curling pass and the attacking full-back got to the ball before Sergio to prod it into the net.
Suarez soon got in on the act as he capitalised on a dreadful mistake by Pione Sisto, who attempted to pass the ball back to his goalkeeper. Suarez was on to it quickly and blasted in the fourth goal.
New signing Philippe Coutinho was seen to be enjoying the show as he watched from the stands. The €160 million Brazilian is not expected to be available for around three weeks because of a thigh injury but he must be licking his lips at the prospect of getting out on the pitch with his teammates.
Having inflicted such damage during the first half, Barcelona took their foot off the gas after the break. Messi and Iniesta were replaced either side of the hour mark but the hosts remained a threat and Suarez was not too far away with a volley.
Two substitutes Jose Arniaz and Ousmane Dembele linked up nicely midway through the second half and Arniaz sent a shot into the side netting.
Suarez almost scored a stunning goal when he attempted to chip Sergio from way out before Rakitic rounded off the rout with a header from a Dembele corner after 87 minutes.

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