Philippe Coutinho looked impressive on his Barcelona debut as a second-half substitute helping his team make their way into the Copa del Rey semifinals with a 2-0 win over Espanyol.
With Philippe Coutinho making his debut for the club and Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez adding to their scoring run, Barcelona advanced to the semifinals of the Copa del Rey for the eighth straight year on Thursday. It was a pretty feisty affair but early goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez had already done the damage.
The Catalans came out hungry and blazing to avenge their 1-0 defeat in the first leg. Just 9 minutes into the game and they overturned the deficit. Vidal’s cross from the right found Suarez at the far post and the Uruguayan wizard netted it home effortlessly. After that Barcelona took the aggregate lead in the 25th minute of the game as Lionel Messi dribbled past through defenders and fired from just outside the box to make the aggregate 2-1.
⚽Leo Messi's goal was number 4,000 for Barça at Camp Nou in official competition #ForçaBarça pic.twitter.com/z3wGBqxkxI
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 25, 2018
Messi and Suarez continued to cause nightmares for the Espanyol defence and continuously threatened to score their second goals before the halftime break. However, the visitors did just enough to prevent that. The second half got off to slow start as Barcelona were looking comfortable at the halftime break. Ernesto Valverde decided to hand Philippe Coutinho his Barcelona debut in the 67th minute of the game, taking off Andres Iniesta. Just seven minutes into his Barcelona debut, the Brazilian playmaker nearly bagged an assist after laying on a perfect pass for Luis Suarez to score from the close range, but the Uruguayan found his shot saved.
When quizzed about Coutinho’s performance on his debut, Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde said: “We have a lot of hopes for him, in the sense that he can be very good for our style of play. His self-confidence, his one-on-one dribbling, his ability to escape defenders, his passing around the area and the danger he poses can all help us. I think he did well in this game, but let’s see what happens. This is just the beginning.”
Over 80,000 people turned out to watch Barcelona take on Espanyol, which is a stark contrast to the usual turn out this season. Seeing this, Valverde said: “For us, the support is fundamental. It was palpable from the first minute of this game and the fans were plugged in from the start. The support of our fans is priceless and I hope it continues to be like that. We play for them, to make them happy, and we want them to come here to help us. That kind of environment is important and it favours us at home and we want our fans to give us a hand.”
Post game reaction from Sergio Busquets, @andresiniesta8, @JordiAlba and @3gerardpique #CopaBarça pic.twitter.com/r29QSHRSF2
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 26, 2018
After Real Madrid’s elimination from the Copa del Rey, Valverde isn’t too concerned about any crisis talk in the capital. Valverde further added: “Real Madrid are a great rival, but if we are in the semi-final it is because we have worked hard to be here. In these cup games you can’t have a bad day, otherwise, you will be out of the competition. I don’t stop to think about the other teams though. I worry about mine and trying to move us forward in our competitions.”
Barcelona next faces Alaves in La Liga on Saturday night, again at the Camp Nou.
The pressing was coherent, the build-up routines were on point, and Barcelona was effectively utilizing width for most of the game. And in the end, Barcelona completely deserved to win.
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