Lionel Messi free kick helps Barcelona to reach Copa del Rey quarterfinals after win over Athletic Bilbao

Lionel Messi’s 78th-minute free-kick helped Barcelona avoid extra time and the 3-1 victory on the night gave a spot in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals

Lionel Messi fired a low strike into the right corner in the 78th minute to help the Catalans reverse a 2-1 first-leg loss and advance 4-3 on aggregate.

Lionel Messi’s third goal from a free-kick in as many games this year secured Barcelona’s place in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey as the holders beat Athletic Bilbao 3-1 to edge through 4-3 on aggregate on Wednesday.

Luis Suarez’s 100th goal for Barcelona and Neymar’s penalty cancelled out Athletic’s 2-1 first leg lead, but Enric Saborit’s header six minutes into the second-half had the tie headed for extra time.

However, just as in the first leg and in a 1-1 draw at Villarreal on Sunday, Messi rode to Barca’s rescue with another exquisite free-kick that clipped the inside of the post on its way past Gorka Iraizoz.

Lionel Messi’s 78th-minute free-kick helped Barcelona avoid extra time and the 3-1 victory on the night gave a spot in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.

Messi fired a remarkable low strike into the right corner in the 78th minute at Camp Nou to help the Catalan club reverse a 2-1 first-leg loss and advance 4-3 on aggregate.

It was Messi’s third decisive free kick goal in the last three Barcelona matches. In addition to scoring in the first leg against Athletic, the Argentina playmaker saved Barcelona from a loss in the Spanish league on Sunday by finding the net with a 90th-minute free kick at Villarreal .

“Messi was decisive, as always,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “I hope he can stay with us for many years, there is no one better than him.”

Neymar scored in the second half – ending a goal drought of nearly three months – after setting up a brilliant scissor kick goal by Luis Suarez in the first half.

Athletic scored a goal that could have taken the game into extra time with a firm header by Enric Saborit in the 51st, making it 2-1 on the night.

But Messi’s strike from the edge of the area kept his team alive in Spain’s second-most important club competition after the league.

Just like he did against Villarreal, Messi caught the goalkeeper wrong-footed by sending his shot away from the wall. His left-foot strike barely left the ground before dropping into the bottom corner. The ball hit the post before crossing the line.

It was Messi’s 26th free kick goal for Barcelona, tying Ronald Koeman’s record for the club. It was also the first time Messi had netted free kick goals in three consecutive matches.

Neymar ended an 11-game scoreless streak – his worst since joining Barcelona three years ago – by converting a 48th-minute penalty kick. It was the first goal for the Brazil striker since a game against Manchester City in the group stage of the Champions League in October.

Neymar had helped Barcelona open the scoring in the 35th with a perfect cross for Suarez’s remarkable volley from the right side of the area. The Uruguay striker timed his shot perfectly, sending a low drive into the far corner for his 300th goal with Barcelona.

The team’s attacking trio of Suarez, Messi and Neymar have scored 302 goals in total since they started playing together.

Barcelona is seeking its third straight Copa title, and 28th overall.

“Our team played well, we had the calm to create our scoring opportunities,” Luis Enrique said. “They scored with the only chance they had.”

On Tuesday, Atletico Madrid became the first team to reach the quarterfinals despite a 3-2 home loss to Las Palmas. Diego Simeone’s team advanced 4-3 on aggregate after a 2-0 first leg win in the Canary Islands.

Real Madrid will defend a 3-0 first-leg win when it plays at Sevilla on Thursday.

 

 

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