26th January, 2018
Lionel Messi was once again decisive in the battle between F.C. Barcelona and Espanyol F.C. in the tie for a place in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey last night as Philippe Coutinho made his debut off the bench.
His team had trailed 1-0 from the first leg match played away but there was of course very little doubt as to the progression of Barca to the next stage of the competition despite the spirited efforts put into the game by the visiting side over the two legs.
Almost 80,000 fans at Camp Nou waved goodbye to Javier Mascherano at the pre-match session.
Lionel Messi and his colleagues made a terrific start in the Catalan derby with Luis Suarez swiftly erasing the first-leg deficit with a header from a fine right-wing Aleix Vidal cross.
Espanyol wasted chances to reclaim the initiative and Messi came up with the key goal, although his shot needed a touch off Naldo to wrongfoot goalkeeper Pau Lopez, before Coutinho was introduced by Ernesto Valverde for a bright 22-minute cameo.
Messi hit the post late on, but Barca – winners of the Copa del Rey in each of the last three seasons – remain in with a chance of matching the four straight titles won by Athletic Bilbao in the 1930s.