Messi fires Barcelona to Copa del Rey final

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Seville

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona thrashed Athletic Bilbao 4-0 in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday to win the trophy for a record-extending 31st time with all the goals coming in the last half an hour.

Antoine Griezmann put a dominant Barca side ahead on the hour when he turned in a cross from Frenkie de Jong, who doubled the Catalans’ lead three minutes later.

Messi suffered some rough tackles from Athletic but got his revenge with a spectacular goal in the 68th, tearing his way through the defence down the right wing and combining with De Jong before dancing around another defender to slot home.

Barca’s captain struck again four minutes later in his 10th Copa final when he met a low cross from Jordi Alba and fired the ball into the bottom corner, his shot proving too powerful for Athletic keeper Unai Simon.

Griezmann thought he had grabbed Barca’s fifth goal in added time but his effort was ruled offside after a VAR review.

“It’s very special to lift this Cup as captain of this club, it’s a very happy day for this group,” said Messi.

“We knew Athletic would play as they did and we had to be patient with the ball and try to create space. We were all over them in the first half and in the second they dropped off.”

The Argentine hoisted the trophy for a seventh time while Dutch coach Ronald Koeman earned his first piece of silverware as Barca coach to add to the glut of honours he won as a player with the the club, including a Copa triumph in 1990. —Agencies