Villa shines as Barca crush Cordoba

TAKING IT EASY::Barcelona never looked troubled by Cordoba, with key players Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez rested for the game

AP, BARCELONA, Spain

Sat, Jan 12, 2013 - Page 19

David Villa made his case for returning to Barcelona’s starting lineup by scoring twice in a 5-0 win over Cordoba on Thursday that sealed a place in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.

The Spain striker has struggled to find minutes since returning from a broken leg. However, he again proved he has not lost his scoring touch with two fine goals to follow Thiago Alcantara’s opener at Camp Nou stadium.

Barcelona eased by their second-division opponent 7-0 on aggregate after Alexis Sanchez added two goals in the second half.

Villa was forced off in the closing stages with what the club said later was cramp in his left leg.

“[Villa] is a great scorer. It’s his great characteristic and he played a good game,” said Barcelona assistant Jordi Roura, who coached the team while coach Tito Vilanova is receiving treatment for a throat tumor. “He showed us what we all know, that he will be an important player for us this season.”

Barcelona now faces three games in the next two weeks against Malaga. The two teams play tomorrow in the Spanish league and then twice more in the Copa.

Atletico Madrid will meet Real Betis Balompie in another quarter-final after they both wrapped up their last-16 ties on Thursday.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi, who was awarded his fourth straight Ballon d’Or on Monday, never left the bench. He had already scored Barcelona’s two goals in the first leg.

Barcelona also rested first-choice midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, while Sergio Busquets was reserved as a substitute.

Thiago opened for the hosts in the 17th minute when he ran onto Alex Song’s chipped pass and slotted a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Mikel Saizar.

Villa doubled the lead four minutes later with a beautiful slalom down the left flank to dribble by a defender before he gently lofted the ball over the onrushing Saizar.

He netted again in the 26th with a hard blast that hit the far post before nestling into the back of the net.

Despite not enjoying much playing time this season, Villa has scored 10 goals in all competitions.

Alexis, who had missed two clear chances in front of an open net, headed in a corner kick in the 55th and tapped in his second in the 85th.

“These goals will give me confidence,” said Alexis, who had only scored once previously this season.

Villa appeared to hurt his right thigh after a sprint and had to go off after trying to continue, leaving Barcelona with 10 men for the final 13 minutes having made all there substitutes.

Earlier, Atletico drew 0-0 with 10-man Getafe to go through with a 3-0 victory on aggregate.

Atletico had little trouble protecting their lead from the home leg. Getafe was lackluster in attack and was reduced to 10 men in the 33rd minute after defender Rafael Lopez was red carded for fouling Radamel Falcao with only the goalkeeper to beat. Getafe forward Angel Lafita was carried off with an injury early in the match.

Betis eliminated second-division club Las Palmas with a 1-0 win to advance 2-1 over the two legs.

Ruben Castro scored his second goal of the tie in the 85th to seal Betis’ place in the quarter-finals.