One of the most depressing seasons in recent Barcelona history somehow got worse: the La Liga champions wasted their chance at another domestic double thanks to a pathetic performance and a 2-1 loss to a fantastic Valencia team who were the better side from start to finish and deserved to win this season’s Copa del Rey.
The first few minutes saw a very dominant Barça control possession and press high up the pitch to get the ball back, but a bad mistake by Clément Lenglet nearly cost them if not for a superhuman effort and clearance off the line by Gerard Piqué to stop Rodrigo from scoring. That was a warning sign.
Barça continued to dominate possession but did nothing with it, while Valencia waited for the right moment to counter again if they got the ball back. They did, and after a great long pass from Gabriel and a smart cross from Gayà, Kévin Gameiro found himself in space at the edge of the box and fired a rocket to give his team the lead.
After scoring the underdogs looked like the overwhelming favorites, passing the ball with confidence and forcing Barça to chase the game. It was too easy to find spaces inside the Blaugrana defense, and they got a second goal after Carlos Soler ran 50 yards down the right wing without being touched and played a simple cross for Rodrigo to head home and make it 2-0.
The Barça attack went from sterile to inexistent after the two goals, and Lionel Messi time and time again found himself trying to go through three defenders at the edge of the box, while his teammates just watched and provided zero support. The first half ended with some hope for Barça as Messi and Rakitic forced Jaume Doménech to make three big saves in less than a minute, and maybe they had a chance to come back in the second half.
At halftime, Barça were terrible and deserved much worse than just a two-goal deficit.
Ernesto Valverde made a rare double substitution at halftime, with Malcom and Arturo Vidal replacing Nélson Semedo and Arthur in an attempt to add more intensity to the Blaugrana offense.
Barça looked much better with the ball, moving it quicker and creating real chances, but Messi, Vidal and Piqué missed three huge ones that clearly hurt the team’s confidence as time began running out. Then there was a corner from Malcom, a header from Lenglet saved by Jaume, and a Messi goal on the rebound, and all of a sudden Barça came back to life with 15 minutes to go.
It was time to throw caution to the wind and find an equalizer, and Barça did it: Piqué and Vidal became strikers, Alba, Coutinho, Messi and Malcom provided the service, and the rest tried to stop counter attacks. They tried as hard as they could, but the equalizer never came, and Valencia have won the Cup.
The season is now over, and I need a drink. Or twelve.
Barcelona: Cillessen; Semedo (Malcom), Piqué, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets; Roberto, Rakitic (Aleñá), Arthur (Vidal), Coutinho; Messi
Goal: Messi (73’)
Valencia: Jaume; Wass, Garay, Gabriel, Gayà; Soler, Parejo (Kondogbia), Coquelin, Guedes; Rodrigo (Diakhaby), Gameiro (Piccini)
Goals: Gameiro (21’), Rodrigo (33’)