Barcelona are through to the Copa del Rey quarterfinals thanks to a 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano in Madrid in a one-off Round of 16 tie that was highly entertaining. Rayo took a shocking lead in the second half, but Barça kept attacking and found the winning goals to advance to the Last Eight.
It was a good first half to watch, unlike the last Copa game at Cornellá. Barça had a stronger team and Rayo came to play early on, pressing high up the pitch and forcing the Blaugrana into bad passes in their own half, though the Vallecas side couldn’t translate those mistakes into chances.
Barça spent most of the time in Rayo’s half but had to be patient against a solid defense, but they still managed to create three big chances: the first came on a cross by Junior Firpo that Frenkie De Jong got to before the goalkeeper, but the Dutchman’s shot hit the crossbar; the second and third chances came in the same play after Francisco Trincão won the ball on the right, carried into the box and tried to score it himself, but Dimitrievski made a big save and Riqui Puig seized on the rebound but saw his shot deflected into the bar.
There was also a strong penalty shout early on for Barça as Catena appeared to hit Trincão’s leg inside the box, but both the referee and VAR saw no foul and ignored Barça’s appeals. At halftime, a good match was goalless but it seemed as though the game would open up in the second half.
The second half was intense and physical, and Barça kept attacking and hit the crossbar for a third time on a Lionel Messi free-kick. The Blaugrana started to amp up the pressure and get closer to the opening goal, and then disaster happened: a lightining quick counter attack from Rayo ended with a deflected cross and a tap-in for Real Madrid loanee Fran García to give the home team the lead.
But Barça reacted quickly thanks to a brilliant pass from De Jong to find Antoine Griezmann, and the Frenchman gave Lionel Messi a tap-in for the equalizer. With 10 minutes to go, Barça found the winner: another brilliant pass, this time from Messi to find Jordi Alba, and Alba gave De Jong a tap-in to put the Blaugrana ahead.
The visitors had a chance to make it 3-1 in injury time when Pedri put Messi all alone in front of goal, but the captain tried to round the keeper and a defender in the goal line and missed a golden chance. Rayo tried pressing for a late equalizer but couldn’t find it, and the final whistle came to give Barça the win.
It is rare to see a comeback from Barça against any team, so they deserve credit for not letting their heads drop after Rayo’s goal. Frenkie De Jong was huge again, and Koeman’s decision to start him was justified. We’re onto the quarterfinals, and no extra time in this one.
Rayo: Dimitrievski; Hernández (Advíncula 83’), Saveljich, Catena, Martos (Isi 83’); Trejo, Comesaña; Martín (Suárez 71’), Montiel (Álvaro 56’), García; Qasmi (Antoñín 71’)
Goal: García (63’)
Barcelona: Neto; Mingueza, Araujo, Lenglet, Firpo (Alba 68’); De Jong, Busquets, Puig (Pedri 68’); Trincão (Dembélé 68’), Messi, Griezmann (Braithwaite 85’)
Goals: Messi (69’), De Jong (80’)