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Debutant Coutinho guides Barça to Copa del Rey final

IANS  |  Valencia 

Recent acquisition scored a magnificent goal off an equally remarkable play by as finished off a 3-0 victory on aggregate over to progress to the final.

Barça came into the second leg at on Thursday in excellent shape after winning the opening match at 1-0 on February 1, reports

But came out with an intelligent game plan and had chances to equalise in the first half, happily ceding ball possession to the Catalans while waiting patiently for opportunities on the counter-attack.

The home side kept things close, with doing his part with a tremendous fist save off a dangerous free kick by Argentine superstar in the eighth minute.

Still just one goal down, nearly got the equaliser on an outstanding header by Rodrigo that beat Barça net minder Jasper Cillessen but clanked off the crossbar.

Later, a great individual effort by nearly set up a golden scoring chance, but the play was disrupted when the Italian's pass to grazed defender Sergi Roberto's heel.

Even so, the ball ended up inside the penalty arc, where Rodrigo got off a powerful blast that Cillessen did well to save.

After the intermission, Barça sent on Coutinho, who arrived during the winter transfer window via a whopping 142-million-pound ($198 million) transfer from (EPL) side

On his very first touch, Coutinho slid forward to get his foot on a perfectly placed pass from the left side by Suarez, who had maneuvered around a defender, and bounce the ball at an acute angle into the left side of the goal in the 49th minute.

Joy and relief were apparent on the face of the Brazilian international, whose price tag also comes with sky-high expectations of being one of the Catalan club's cornerstones.

For Valencia, however, it was a crushing blow since the club suddenly found itself needing three goals to have any chance of advancing to their first final since 2008.

sought to give his club a fighting chance by putting in Carlos Soler and Goncalo Guedes, and subsequently upped its intensity in pursuit of a goal.

nearly made the aggregate score 2-1 but Cillessen made a miraculous, handball-type save at point-blank range.

Later, finding space against an aggressive opponent, managed a second goal of the night -- and third overall -- when Suarez stole the ball from Brazilian defender and set up for a score in the 82nd minute.

Next up for Barça in the April 21 championship match will be Sevilla, which advanced with a 3-1 victory on aggregate over Leganes on Wednesday.

--IANS

tri/vm

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, February 09 2018. 14:02 IST
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