Monday, May 23, 2016

FC Barcelona: 2015-16 Copa Del Rey Champions



Jordi Alba’s goal in the seventh minute of extra time capped a stunning turnaround of events and handed FC Barcelona a well-deserved 2–0 victory over Sevilla in the 2016 Copa del Rey final on Sunday night at the Vicente Calderón Stadium in Madrid.

Neymar tacked on a goal just instants before the final whistle. Lionel Messi had both assists.

Overall, the title is Barça’s fourth of the season. The Catalans beat Sevilla in an extra-time thriller in the UEFA Super Cup final to start the season before winning the FIFA Club World Cup in December.

With the La Liga championship already in the bag, Sunday’s Copa del Rey win — the 28th in Club history — means Barça have emerged on top in both of this season’s national competitions, giving them the coveted domestic double and ensuring the 2015/16 season will be hailed as a success for years to come.

An hour before Alba’s scored the eventual game-winner, though, the outlook was not as bright.

After dominating possession through the first 30 minutes of the final, FC Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano were slapped with straight red card in the 36th minute for getting tangled up with Sevilla’s Kevin Gameiro as he raced in on goal.

Later, not long after the second half had gotten underway, Barça received a second shock, as Luis Suárez had to leave the game with an injury after stretching just a bit too far to haul in a pass.

As Suárez sauntered off gingerly, Luis Enrique conferred with his assistants in the face of what was looking more and more like a chess match.

With Sevilla getting ever deeper into Barça territory and threatening to take the lead, midfielder Éver Banega was shown a red card after tackling Neymar from behind just outside the box. Just like Mascherano, Banega was also judged to be the last man.

Tasked with a 22-metre free kick to essentially win the game, Messi somewhat awkwardly lobbed the ball over the wall before it was slapped over the bar by Sergio Rico.

Nevertheless, when the whistle came signalling the end of regulation, Barça, no longer down a man, were visibly relieved and used the hiatus to regroup both physically and mentally.

The Barça XI came out of the huddle looking as confident as they had all evening. If they were going to win this one they would have to do it like they did in last summer’s Super Cup — in extra time.

And that’s just what happened.

Retaking control of the game, Messi picked out Alba with a long pass and the speedy full-back hauled it in before flicking it past Sergio Rico for the game’s first score in the 97th minute.

Celebrations erupted on the Barça bench and among the throngs of supporters who had made the trip to Madrid.

There were still 20 minutes left of extra time. As the clock plodded on into triple digits, players from both sides appeared to be on the verge of physical exhaustion.

With Sevilla now fighting for their lives, defender Daniel Carriço was booked twice in the 120th minute after a hard tackle on Messi followed by a surplus of vociferous protest.

On the ensuing play, and with the game, and the tournament, all but over, Messi found Neymar in the Sevilla area and the Brazilian slotted past Rico, touching off FC Barcelona’s second title celebration in the last eight days.
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