Lionel Messi believes Barcelona showed their appetite for the Copa del Rey by blowing away Sevilla 6-1 on Thursday to pull off a brilliant comeback and book their place in the semi-finals.
Sevilla had won the first leg 2-0 but their lead was wiped out within 31 minutes at the Camp Nou, after Philippe Coutinho scored a penalty, deferred to him by Messi, before Ivan Rakitic poked in a second.
Ever Banega had squandered the chance to level for Sevilla by missing his own spot-kick and Barca ran riot in the second half.
Coutinho headed in his second and Sergi Roberto added a fourth, only for Guilherme Arana to give Sevilla brief hope. Luis Suarez and Messi wrapped up an emphatic victory late on, the latter after a superb counter-attacking move.
Some had suggested Barcelona would be relieved to exit the Copa del Rey to focus fully on La Liga and the Champions League but Messi said their display had silenced the doubters.
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“It was said that we had given up in the cup, that we didn’t want it,” Messi said afterwards. “But in no way is this the case. This team wants to fight for all three titles, as is the obligation of Barca every year.”
Coutinho’s form has wavered in recent weeks but his double could do wonders for confidence.
Barcelona, meanwhile, are no strangers to these sort of revivals but against Sevilla, who sit fourth in La Liga and have been one of their closest challengers this season, it was particularly impressive.
The defending champions are into the last four for the ninth consecutive year and edge closer to an historic fifth Copa del Rey title in a row.
They join Valencia and Real Betis in the semis after Betis had earlier needed extra time to beat Espanyol 3-1, 4-2 on aggregate, while Valencia knocked out Getafe on Tuesday.
Real Madrid could fill the last spot. They carry a 4-2 lead into their second leg against Girona on Thursday.
Ernesto Valverde had rested players at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan but he fielded almost his strongest XI in the return.
Messi, left out last week, was back in the starting line-up, along with Suarez, Jordi Alba and Coutinho. Jasper Cillessen kept his place in goal ahead of Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
– Messi gives up penalty duties –
Perhaps Messi felt Coutinho had played a big part in winning the penalty after it was the Brazilian’s drag-back that gave him the ball.
Messi went to shoot but struck the leg of Quincy Promes, who could do little about the contact. Referee Jose Sanchez checked with VAR and pointed to the spot. Messi gave way to Coutinho, who whipped it into the corner.
The night could have been different had Cillessen not produced a pair of brilliant saves to preserve his team’s lead. First, he tipped Andre Silva’s flicked finish onto the post and then he saved Banega’s penalty, pushing it out after Gerard Pique had brought down Roque Mesa.
It could have been 1-1 but four minutes later, it was 2-0, Arthur Melo picking out Rakitic, whose attempt to control turned into a poke past the committed Juan Soriano. Rakitic held up his hands, choosing not to celebrate against his former club.
Barca appeared to have put the tie beyond doubt when they scored twice in as many minutes in the second half. Coutinho stooped low to head in Suarez’s cross and then Sergi Roberto hammered in after a delicate ball through from Messi.
Instead, Sevilla pulled one back, Arana driving into the far corner. There were 23 minutes left and the visitors only needed one more to go through on away goals.
But Suarez set Barca off again, tapping in Alba’s cross before Messi added a final flourish. He started the move with a soaring pass left to Arturo Vidal, who fed inside to Suarez. Pique played the ball back to Suarez by flicking it with his right foot and then Alba teed up Messi, by flicking with his left. Messi made it six.