Valencia shock Barcelona in Copa del Rey final despite Messis best efforts

Valencia beat Barcelona 2-1 in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday, denying Lionel Messi the chance to lead his team to a fifth consecutive domestic cup success

By the end here in Seville they could take it no more, but the suffering was worth it and they made it. Somewhere in the madness a whistle blew and Valencia became Copa del Rey winners. For the first time in 1,456 days, Barcelona are not the cup winners.

There will be consequences at the Camp Nou, changes. Lionel Messis second-half goal was not enough to cancel out strikes from Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo Moreno and a league title is not enough for a club like this.

For Valencia, the cup is certainly enough. There was wild celebration; this was the culmination of a centenary year that for so long had been one to endure, but it ended in elation. What an occasion this turned out to be: on a knife edge, nerves shredded all around this stadium.

As the final minutes slipped by and players fell, exhaustion gripping everyone; the tension was unbearable with Barcelona throwing everything at Valencia. So much so that their goalkeeper, Jasper Cillessen, who had gone up for the last corner, was among those running back when Gonalo Guedes ran through all alone.

It was the second time it had happened, players, staff and coaches leaving the bench convinced that this was the moment. It was not Guedes shot wide of the open goal but eventually it was over.

Halfway through this season Valencia were only four points off the relegation zone and their manager, Marcelino Garca Toral, was under pressure. But the players backed him, the clubs director general too, and patience paid off. They clinched a Champions League place on the final day and now they are the cup winners too. Barcelonas fightback proved insufficient, their season too. Anfield hurt, Andalucia made that pain more profound.

Their problems had started early. Valencia might have had the lead after five minutes when Rodrigo ran through and round Cillessen only for Gerard Piqu to slide in and stop the ball on the line. But a pattern had been set Barcelona had the ball, Valencia used it and they did not have to wait too long for a second opportunity and this time they took it. Gabriel Paulista sent a long diagonal ball spearing towards the left wing where Jos Luis Gay controlled and pulled it back across the face of the Barcelona area. Gameiro took it in his stride, stepped past Jordi Alba and smashed it hard and straight into the net.

Piqu had stressed the importance of Barcelona getting the first goal and Messi had talked about the psychological impact of Liverpool scoring early at Anfield, a game still in their minds 17 days later. And while Barcelona did not collapse exactly, there was a familiarity about this for their fans. In the absence of Luis Surez and Ousmane Dembl, Barcelona were toothless, more dependent than ever on Messi. Yet this was not just about the forward line, where there was an empty space they depended on him everywhere.

Kevin
Kevin Gameiro (left) scores Valencias opening goal against Barcelona. Photograph: Miguel Morenatti/AP

When Messi received there were two lines in front of him not one. And no one from his own team. It was Dani Parejo who faced him, rather than Gabriel or Ezequiel Garay and while Messi escaped to fire off the first shot of the game, thereafter the former QPR player got the better of him. Valencia, by contrast, were incisive, swiftly into space. And when Francis Coquelin found Carlos Soler sprinting up the right wing, beyond Alba, his cross was headed in by Rodrigo to make it 2-0. Frankly, this felt done. Barcelona did too, all over. It was not.

Piqu stepped forward more, seeking to accelerate them. Ivan Rakitic sliced wide, then headed past the post before a superb shot from Messi brought a sharp save from Jaume Domnech. There was something there now and all the more with the introduction of Arturo Vidal and Malcom, who at least offered a little presence, odd though it was to see the Chilean playing almost as a centre-forward. Messi had teammates ahead of him now, pressure applied, the attacks reaching deeper into Valencia territory. This felt different. The roar that greeted a Messi free-kick clipping the wall spoke of relief. And then Messi skipped inside, hopping over the legs, somehow slipping free and striking the post with the outside of his foot. Vidal put the rebound over the bar. Then Messi scored from close range after Clment Lenglets header hit the post.

Carlos Alena came on and sped things up, taking the ball and responsibility. Malcom ran on the right. And Piqu went up front permanently now. But time was running out. Yes, we can, the Valencia fans chanted and they groaned when the board went up saying five more minutes. They were five minutes of madness but Valencia were not denied.

Quick guide

Copa del Rey lineups

BarcelonaCillessen; Semedo (Malcom ht); Piqu, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic (Alena 77), Busquets, Arthur (Vidal ht); Sergi Roberto, Messi, Coutinho.BookedBusquets, Vidal.Subs not usedPena, Umtiti, Vermaelen, Prez.

ValenciaDomenech; Wass, Gabriel, Garay, Gay; Soler, Coquelin, Parejo (Kondogbia 65), Guedes; Rodrigo (Diakhaby 88), Gameiro (Piccini 72).BookedGaya, Kondogbia.Subs not usedNeto, Lato, Torres, Mina.

RefereeUndiano Mallenco.

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