Barcelona close in on Copa final

Barca’s 10th consecutive win in all competitions, their longest winning streak since the end of 2010, put them in a strong position to advance to the final after March’s second leg at El Madrigal. ?? ????

Uruguay forward Suarez is taking time to settle in Spain after joining Barca from Liverpool, but although he has yet to hit scoring form, he has impressed with his link-up play and creativity.

He robbed the ball in the 41st minute at the Nou Camp before sprinting forward and laying a perfect pass into Messi’s path for the Argentina captain to sweep a first-time shot past ‘keeper Sergio Asenjo.

It was harsh on a well-organised Villarreal side, who had lost captain and midfielder Bruno Soriano to what looked like a serious leg injury around 10 minutes earlier.

Barca squandered a series of chances before the visitors levelled three minutes into the second period after home keeper Marc Andre Ter Stegen let a long-range Manuel Trigueros shot straight through his hands.

Andres Iniesta put Barca back in front a minute later when he fired a loose ball low into the net and Gerard Pique made it 3-1 in the 64th minute with a header from a Messi corner.

Messi would normally have taken the spot kick when Barca were awarded a penalty for a Mateo Musacchio handball in the 70th minute, but after he stepped aside to allow Neymar a chance, the Brazil captain had his effort well saved by Asenjo.

Suarez won more appreciation from the home support in stoppage time when he almost caught Asenjo off his line with a lobbed shot from near the halfway line, but the ball drifted narrowly wide with the keeper beaten.

Should they progress to the final, Barca will meet either Athletic Bilbao or 2006 winners Espanyol, who drew 1-1 in their first leg at Bilbao’s San Mames Stadium. ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ?? ??

Bilbao took the lead in the 11th minute at the San Mames thanks to a neat finish fromtop scorer Aritz Aduriz, ??who nothced his 15th of the season for the Basque club.

Espanyol midfielder Victor Sanchez smashed in a stunning volley from 20 yards 10 minutes before the break, and the Catalan club spurned three glorious opportunites to take an advantage into the second leg on March 4.

Comments