Messi shines as Barcelona rout Celta in Copa del Rey

AFP, MADRID

Sat, Jan 13, 2018 - Page 16

Lionel Messi on Thursday put on a master class in front of new recruit Philippe Coutinho as Barcelona trounced RC Celta de Vigo 5-0 to ease into the Copa del Rey quarter-finals 6-1 on aggregate.

Coutinho, dressed in a black shirt dotted with white stars, was in the stands at the Camp Nou for the first time since his 160 million euro (US$193.2 million) move from Liverpool.

It did not take long for the Brazilian star to appreciate the playing riches on show on the pitch.

“The first half was extraordinary,” Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said.

Level at 1-1 after the first leg, the three-time defending champions were 4-0 up by halftime.

Messi scored the opening two goals in the 13th and 15th minutes, both finished with a sublime first touch with his left foot, both created by Jordi Alba.

Messi then returned the favor by setting up Alba to score past hapless Sergio Alvarez in the Celta goal before Luis Suarez made it 4-0 on the night after 30 minutes, when the Uruguayan burst through the defense.

The tie petered out in the second half, but French international Ousmane Dembele demonstrated why Barcelona last year paid 105 million euros for him by dribbling past three defenders from the halfway line before being denied by a desperate tackle.

Dembele did have time to set up the fifth goal of the night three minutes from the end, when his corner was headed home from close range by an unmarked Ivan Rakitic.

“It’s luxury to have Leo [Messi] in the side, he’s the best in history. We always look for each other to score goals and today we have done it twice,” Alba said.

Earlier on Thursday, RCD Espanyol overturned a 2-1 loss in the first leg by defeating Levante UD 2-0, with Leo Baptistao and Gerard Moreno on target either side of halftime.

Sevilla also progressed with a 2-1 win at home to second-tier Cadiz for a 4-1 aggregate.

Wissam Ben Yedder in the 31st minute and Joaquin Correa in the 54th minute were on target for manager Vincenzo Montella’s team.