Barça reached the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey tonight after crushing Levante with a 5-1 win on the night and a 9-2 overall aggregate score. Levante had little chance after the 1-4 scoreline in the first game but an early own goal from Sergi Roberto gave the visitors hope until Adriano Correia fired Barça level just before the half hour and then Carlos Puyol headed in a corner shortly before half time. Two second half goals from Alexis Sanchez and another from Cesc Fabregas completed the rout and Barça will now face either Real Sociedad or Racing Santander in the semi final, though with Racing’s players threatening to not play tomorrow’s second leg it looks like La Real will be our opponents.
Tonight’s game began with a heavy rainstorm over Barcelona and with only 25,000 spectators braving the conditions there was an eerie atmosphere at Camp Nou. After a slow start to the game Levante took the lead in the ninth minute after Nagore won a corner off Puyol on the right. Pedro Leon sent in the cross to the near post, Puyol slipped, allowing Vyntra a header which the Levante central defender directed well off target but the ball hit Sergi Roberto and deflected past the surprised Pinto.
Levante were encouraged by the goal and there was a period when they pressed efficiently against Barça’s defence but regrouped quickly to get nine men behind the ball when Barça moved forward. There was little reaction from Barça with just the occasional moment from Iniesta, Fabregas or Alexis to excite the crowd. Fabregas fired in one low shot that hit a defender. Then Montoya sent in a low cross that was cut out by a defender and Sergi Roberto nipped in quickly but fired his shot over the bar. It was beginning to look like a frustrating night.
However, in the 27th minute Iniesta dribbled past one then squared to Fabregas inside the D, there was no immediate way through so Fabregas knocked the ball back towards Adriano coming in from the left and the full-back fired in one of his specials that swerved away from keeper Javi Jiménez and into the far corner.
The equalizer didn’t improve things much and the game entered a scrappy period when Levante’s Sergio had to come off injured to be replaced by Nong, and Alex Song and Camarasa joined Sergi Roberto and Sergio in the referee’s notebook. Then just before half time Adriano won a corner on the left, Tello sent in an inswinger to the near post and Puyol got to the ball first with a glancing downward header that bounced across Jiménez and in.
Pedro replaced Iniesta at half time with Fabregas moving back to midfield and Alexis moving to centre-forward. The move had a devastating effect with the Chilean scoring twice in the first seven minutes of the second half. In the 50th minute Montoya made a diagonal run forward into the Levante half before finding Fabregas who moved the ball on to Tello on the left, the winger spotted Montoya continuing his run through the inside left position and threaded a pàss through, Montoya crossed, Jiménez failed to catch the ball and Alexis had an easy finish from two yards out.
If the Levante keeper was unfortunate with Alexis’s first goal, two minutes later his luck got worse. Adriano cracked in another shot from outside the area that took a big deflection off Vyntra, Jiménez was diving to his left but he managed to stretch a leg to divert the ball onto the crossbar, as the ball bounced down there was a split second when Jiménez looked relieved to see the ball in front of him but then Alexis sped in to pounce on the rebound and Barça went further ahead.
The final goal came in the 68th minute. Fabregas won the ball back by the right touchline and played the ball inside to Song, quick passes through Pedro and Alexis and the ball came back to Fabregas inside the area and he cut inside Nikos before sending a left-footer low inside the near post.
There was little more to note except Martino’s tactical experiments. Afellay came on for Fabregas and played in midfield, and for the last ten minutes Mascherano came on to play the defensive midfield role while Sergi Roberto ended up playing as false nine. There were few conclusions to take from the game though we obviously didn’t really get going in the first half. It was great to see another couple of goals from Alexis though I still find the decision to play first-team regulars like the Chilean and Fabregas strange when we will want them to be as fresh as possible for coming games. At least Martino rested Messi. There are less than three days now before the next game against Valencia in the league at Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon (4 pm).
Barça: Pinto 6.5; Montoya 7, Bartra 6.5, Puyol 6.5. Adriano 7.5; Sergi Roberto 6, Song 6.5, Iniesta 6.5 (Pedro m45, 6.5); Alexis 8 (Mascherano m78, 6.5), Fabregas 7.5 (Afellay m69, 6), Tello 6.5.
Levante: Javi Jiménez; Nagore, Vyntra, Juanfran, Nikos; Pedro Ríos, El Adoua, Camarasa, Rubén Garcia (Jordi m71), Sergio (Nong m32); Ángel (Pallardo m59).
Goals: m9 Sergi Roberto (o.g.) 0-1, m27 Adriano 1-1, m44 Puyol 2-1, m50 Alexis 3-1, m52 Alexis 4-1, m68 Fabregas 5-1.
Yellow cards: m12 Sergi Roberto, m26 Sergio, m40 Song, m41 Camarasa, m54 El Adoua,