Madrid, Feb 4 (IANS) Leo Messi and Luis Suarez scored seven goals between them as FC Barcelona all but assured their place in the final of the Spanish King’s Cup football competition following a crushing 7-0 win at home to Valencia in the first leg of their semi-final tie on Wednesday night.
The reigning champions won after a magnificent display against a rival who ended the game with 10 men after central defender Shkodran Mustafi was sent off after committing a foul against Leo Messi when he was the last defender, reports Xinhua.
The margin of victory would have been even greater had Neymar not sent the resultant penalty against the woodwork.
Barca coach Luis Enrique rested some key players who had looked jaded at times at the weekend with Jeremy Mathieu, Aleix Vidal and and Ter Stegen all starting, but didn’t have to wait long until his side opened the score.
There were only seven minutes on the clock when Luis Suarez scored with an angled drive after Neymar had dispossessed Valencia’s Andre Gomez.
He doubled Barca’s lead just five minutes later as Vidal sent an intelligent ball in for him to smash pass Matt Ryan to put Barca firmly on track for another final. Messi got his first of the night just before the half hour after Neymar’s dummy from Iniesta’s pass gave him a simple finish.
Barca were producing some of their best football of the season and Messi hit the post before Mustafi’s challenge on the striker left his side with a player less for the second half.
The second half saw Barca continue where they left off, taking a 10-man rival apart. Messi completed his hat-trick in the 59th and 74th minute, while Suarez continued his goal spree with goals in the 83rd and 89th minute.
Barcelona were virtually unstoppable and even more for a side which has not won in its last eight league matches and who had to play with just 10 men.
Gary Neville’s first managerial experience is turning into a very difficult period and with his side facing an impossible task to reach the Cup final, he needs to see them start winning in the league otherwise it may come to a premature end.