SEVILLE, Spain (AP) – Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat Athletic Bilbao 4-0 to win the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, giving Ronald Koeman his first title as coach of the Catalan club. Messi‘s two goals came after Antoine Griezmann finally beat Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simón with the opener on the hour-mark.
Messi‘s performance will raise hopes of the soccer great staying at Barcelona.
Frenkie de Jong headed in a second goal in the 63rd before Messi dealt a double blow to put the result beyond any doubt by the 72nd. It is Barcelona‘s first title since winning the Spanish league in 2019. Koeman, a former Barcelona defender, returned to coach the club last summer after Barcelona finished the previous season without a title for the first time since 2008.
Barcelona has won the Spanish cup a record 31 times, including four straight from 2015-2018.
Bilbao has now lost two Copa del Rey finals this month at La Cartuja Stadium in Seville. Bilbao lost 1-0 to Real Sociedad just two weeks ago when they met in 2020 final that had been postponed due to the pandemic.
Messi again showed, at age 33, that he can still wholly dominate a final.
Barcelona suffocated Bilbao from the start, with Messi combining with his teammates on the right side of the attack to repeatedly punch holes in the Basques’ defense.
The bombardment started in the fifth when Sergio Busquets’ lob found Messi, who returned the ball for De Jong to fire off the post. Bilbao’s defense had to hustle to keep the score 0-0 by halftime, with Messi linking up with his teammates seemingly at will inside the opponents’ area.
The second half continued with Messi dictating the pace, and now Simón had to save Bilbao.
The Spain goalkeeper blocked point-blank efforts by Griezmann and Busquets and stretched to push Pedri González’s shot wide. But Simón could do nothing to keep out Griezmann’s sharp one-touch strike-off De Jong’s cross from the right after Messi had again taken the ball and forced Bilbao to scramble back into its box.
With Bilbao reeling, Barcelona struck again – this time from the left. Messi also played a subtle part in this goal, making a dummy run to open space for De Jong to push forward and head in Jordi Alba’s cross.
De Jong then helped Messi slalom through Bilbao from near the middle of the field into the heart of the area by exchanging two quick passing combinations with the Argentine. Messi capped the move by dribbling past the last defender before slotting in his team’s third goal in the 68th.
Messi rounded off the stellar performance that earned him a 35th career title for Barcelona when he fired in a pass from Alba. Simón got an arm out but, like so many before, could not keep Messi out.
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