Barcelona matched the result from the first leg, once again beating Villarreal by the score of 3-1, booking a place in the Copa del Rey Final. Spearheaded by Neymar’s brace Barca also received a goal from Luis Suarez. It wasn’t as easy as the score would reflect though as the game was close until Tomás Pina was sent off midway through the second half.
|Villarreal CF||FC Barcelona
|Shots on Target||6||5
Both managers prepared some minor surprises in the starting lineups. Luis Enrique opted to use Martin Montoya in place of Dani Alves at right back while going back to the Gerard Pique - Javier Mascherano center-back pairing. Andres Iniesta and Rafinha once again formed the central midfielder duo.
Marcelino García Toral also made a pair of changes from the first leg. He was forced to make the first due to the injury of Bruno Soriano, who was replaced by Manu Trigueros. The second change was of tactical nature as Marcelino opted to leave Giovani dos Santos on the bench in place of Ikechukwu Uche.
Villarreal started very strong out of the gate, possibly aided by the effort from the scoreboard operator, who put up a 1-0 score in favor of Villarreal before kickoff. The hosts quickly pinned Barcelona back, and started causing plenty of problems for the Catalan back-line. With a better pass or two Villarreal could've easily secured the score-line the scoreboard reflected before kickoff.
But Barcelona made Villarreal pay on their visit into the opposing half, in the 3rd minute. Mascherano sent a perfect long ball to the left-wing where Luis Suarez was left with plenty of unoccupied real estate. He then sent the ball to the opposite wing where Lionel Messi made the decisive move to the inside to get clear of Jaume Costa before sending a pinpoint ball into the middle where Neymar beat the goalkeeper and sent the ball into the back of the net with a single touch.
Despite scoring the goal it were Villarreal who remained the more dangerous team on the pitch. Many a time Barcelona's defenders were out of position, and with Villarreal's midfielders possessing good vision there were chances to be created. First good one came in the 7th minute when Uche was played through, but Jordi Alba recovered in time to clear the ball out for a corner kick. From the corner the hosts had another opportunity to beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but from close range Denis Cheryshev missed everything.
Barcelona continued to struggle to get control the ball in the dangerous areas of the pitch. Statistically Barca controlled the possession by a wide margin, but that possession came mostly inside their own half, far from Villarreal's goal. And because the ball was already in Barcelona's half the hosts didn't need to work hard to get into the scoring areas once the ball was, inevitably, turned over.
Luciano Vietto had his first chance of the game in the 12th minute as Costa found him with a cross from the left side for a free header. But Vietto's header was poor, aimed right at ter Stegen who easily collected the ball. Five minutes later Uche had another chance to score from the right side after he again eluded Mascherano and Alba. But once again Uche's shot missed the target.
While Villarreal were looking to work the ball slowly into the penalty box and into the back of the net, Barcelona often tried to beat the offside trap with long balls from deep in their own area. Suarez was the primary target man for these balls but more often than not he was adjudged to be offside by the linesman.
Barcelona didn't create their next half-chance to add to the lead until the 26th minute when once again Messi was the main creator. Again sending a perfect cross from the right side into the box, this time to Iniesta, but Villarreal's defense was more alert than on Neymar's goal, blocking Iniesta's attempt.
Villarreal's onslaught lost some steam as the half went on, but Barcelona still couldn't get any sustained pressure going in Villarreal's half. There were the occasional long passes that connected and a good dribble or two, but the trademark long build-ups around and through the opposing back-line were missing. But Barcelona still had a chance to double their lead in the 38th minute when Neymar carried the ball to the edge of the box. With Messi and Suarez in support it turned from a one-on-one into a three-on-two, but Neymar decided to dribble his man and finish the chance off by himself, but his try was blocked by the defender.
Villarreal were quick to make Barcelona pay for that, equalizing the very next minute trough former Barcelona man Jonathan dos Santos, who buried Uche's cross which came from the left side. That was not the worst thing that came from that play though. In the build-up, while attempting to pass the ball to the left side, Pina caught Sergio Busquets with his studs directly into his right ankle, rolling it completely. It was a terrible challenge that had everybody hoping for a better than feared outcome. Busquets was immediately put on a stretcher and carried of the pitch. He was replaced by Jeremy Mathieu.
The score would not change again in the first half, with the two sides going into the locker rooms tied at one, but with Barcelona in the lead 4-2 on aggregate.
Villarreal started the second half exactly the same way they started the first - storming out of the gate. Just seconds after the restart Manu Trigueros tried his luck from a similar position from which he scored in the first leg, but his attempt was blocked by Mathieu. Quickly thereafter Vietto had another chance from header, this one after a Cheryshev cross, but his header was again poor, missing the target altogether.
Again, Barcelona struggled to cope with Villarreal high pressure. The Catalans still controlled the ball at a roughly 60% clip, but if in any of the games possession was meaningless it was in this one. Barcelona were simply unable to string together passes in the opposing half. And even when they did manage to connect with a few it was just a matter of time before the pressure on the ball carrier would get the job done and Barcelona would turn the ball over. And when that happened Villarreal were lighting quick on the counter.
Ter Stegen had to make two saves only a couple minutes apart, the first coming in the 52nd minute on a dos Santos free kick, after Pique picked up a yellow card. The second attempt was more dangerous. Two defenders, Mario Gaspar and Mateo Musacchio combined deep in Barcelona's area, but Musacchio's tipped shot was well held by the German.
Barcelona actually threatened to score the very next minute. After a successful stretch of passes Messi took things into his own hands, dribbling past four Villarreal players. With enough space to take the shot, Messi unleashed a left-footed shot, but Sergio Asenjo was able to one-hand the ball away.
Quickly after the one hour mark both managers made substitutions. First, the dos Santos brothers were reunited on the pitch as Giovani replaced Uche. Lucho countered by bringing some veteran presence on, taking Rafinha off and replacing him with Xavi.
Just seconds after the change Pina was shown a straight red card for a terrible lunging tackle from behind that easily could've resulted in Neymar joining Busquets on the stretcher. Neymar was able to escape injury, but Pina was rightfully sent off for the early shower.
With the extra space on the pitch Barcelona were finally able to get comfortable in Villarreal's half. They knew that whoever would score the next goal would either gain momentum for the final push, or put the game out of reach. So in order to not give the man-short Villarreal a sniff at a comeback Barcelona started to press for the second away goal.
The first one came in the 69th minute when Iniesta perfectly timed his pass to Suarez, who beat the offside trap, but the Uruguayan was unable to direct the ball on target. Two minutes later Barcelona had a golden opportunity to decide the game as Neymar, Suarez and Messi when on a three-on-one on Asenjo. But Neymar yet again decided he will try to do it all himself. This time, at least, he tested the goalkeeper, but his shot lacked accuracy to beat a goalkeeper of Asenjo's qualities. But what Neymar missed Saurez didn't in the 74th minute. Saurez was once again picked out by a long Mascherano pass, and the Uruguayan went on to deke the keeper and slot the ball into the empty net.
With the game now all but won Lucho started thinking about the final against of Athletic Bilbao or Espanyol, taking off Mascherano, who was a yellow card away from missing the final, off the pitch. He was replaced by Ivan Rakitić.
A man down and needing four goals Villarreal understandably didn't fight back as much. Barcelona also didn't press more, slowing down the tempo as to not risk any bookings and/or injuries. Speaking of injuries, an encouraging sign was shown late in the game as Busquets was seen sitting on the bench next to his teammates, ruling out any talk of a serious injury.
To break down the monotony of the late stages of the game Barcelona decided to score one more goal, in the 88th minute, with Neymar finally finishing off chance that presented itself to him. Xavi brilliantly found him in the penalty area, and Neymar didn't need to do much to score his second of the game.
With the tie decided the referee didn't add any time to the clock. With the 6-2 aggregate win Barcelona booked their first final under Luis Enrique.
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